Solving Physics Problems with your TI 83 Calculator

Solving Physics Problems with your TI 83 Calculator
By David Doty

This web site is designed to help students become familiar with the
use of the TI 83 and TI 83+ calculators for use in physics classes.
While the use of this web page is not limited to physics students, the
concepts addressed here tend to cause problems facing physics

How to input scientific notation with your TI (shortcut)

The use of the [EE] key.

For many calculators, including the TI -83 and TI 83 Plus, the [EE]
button is used to enter scientific notation. The [EE] button can be
found in yellow above the comma key [,]. For entering scientific
notation, the following keystrokes should be used: first type the
number, then the 2nd key followed by the comma key, [2nd] [,] [EE],
followed by the exponent. As an example, to enter 3 x 108 type [3]
[EE] [8]. The display will read 3E8.
The calculator can be set to display answers in scientific notation
or normal display. To set the display, simply press the mode button
and using the arrow keys select the desired display and press enter.
To leave this menu, press [2nd] [MODE] to quit.
Follow these examples for inputting basic addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division.


Add: 8.1 x 106 + 4.2 x 105
Type: 8.1 [EE] 6 [+] 4.2 [EE] 5
Displayed answer: 8.52E6
Numerical answer: 8.52 x 106 = 8,520,000

Subtract: 6.2 x 10-3 - 2.8 x 10-4
Type: 6.2 [EE] -3 [-] 2.8 [EE] -4
Numerical answer: 5.92E-3
Numerical answer: 5 x 10-3 = 0.00592


Multiply: (3 x 106) (2 x 103)
Type: 3 [EE] 6 [X] 2 [EE] 3
Displayed answer: 6E9
Numerical answer: 6 x 109 = 6,000,000,000

Type: 6 [EE] 8 [ ] 2 [EE] 10
Displayed answer: 3E-2
Numerical answer: 3 x 10-2 = 0.03

Sample Physics Problems

1) What is the magnitude of the gravitational force between an
electron and a proton separated by a distance of 1.0 x 10-10
meters? answer
2) A positive charge of 6.0 x 10-6 C is 0.030 m from a second positive
charge of 3.0 x 10-6 C. Calculate the electric force
between the charges. answer
3) In a vacuum, the wavelength of green light is 5 x 10-7 meter. What
is its frequency? answer
4) What is the energy of a photon with a frequency of 3.00 x 1013
cycles per second?

Answers to Sample Physics Problems

1) Calculate gravitational force via Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation

6.67 [EE] -11 [X] 9.11 [EE] -31 [X] 1.67 [EE] -27 [ ] 1 [EE] -10 [x2]

Calculator Display:
6.67E-11 * 9.11E-31 * 1.67E-27 / 1E-102

Displayed answer: 1.0E-47
Numerical answer: 1.0 x 10-47
Back to Problems

2) Calculate Coloumb Force via Coloumb's Law:

Type in:
8.99 [EE] 9 [X] 6.0 [EE] -6 [X] 3.0 [EE] -6 [ ] .030 [x2]
Calculator Display:
8.99E9 * 6.00E-6 * 3.00E-6 / .0302
Displayed answer: 179.8
Numerical answer: 179.8
Back to Problems


3) Hz

Type in: 3 [EE] 8 [X] 5 [EE] -7
Calculator display: 3E8/5E-7
Displayed answer: 6E14
Numerical answer: 6.0 x 1014
Back to Problems

4) J

Type in: 6.63EE-34 X 3EE13
Calculator display: 6.63E34 * 3E13
Displayed answer: 1.99E-20
Numerical answer: 1.99 x 10-20
Back to Problems

Inputting using parentheses

For those of you who do not want to use the EE button on the
calculator, yes parentheses can be used to enter equations.
Example from the division section above:

This can be entered: (6 [X] 10 [^] 8) [ ] (2 [X] 10 [^] 10)

Answer: 3E-2 = 3 x 10-2
TI orders of operation

The problem with typing in [X] 10 [^] (exponent) is that the TI 83
calculators do not distinguish scientific notation from multiplication
and division. This becomes problematic when dividing numbers in
scientific notation. As an example look at question 3 from the sample
physics problems.

In a vacuum, the wavelength of green light is 5 X 10-7 meter. What is
its frequency?

The solution is:

However if a student mistakenly types in:
3 [X] 10 [^] 8 [/] 5 [X] 10 [^] -7
the TI gives the answer of 6.

This is the orders of operations that the TI follows for this example:


Although one of the goals of the new NYS standards is to increase
conceptual understanding of physics, students still need to be able to
mathematically solve physics problems. Many students use the Texas
Instrument calculators (TI 83 and TI 83+) as a tool for solving
problems and we need to clarify the problems that students have in
using this tool. The TI calculators do not use common sense when
performing calculations, so the students need to correctly input the
data to get the correct outcomes.

David Doty

David Doty is currently teaching NYS Regents Physics, Environmental
Science, and various science laboratories at Salamanca City Central
Schools. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the State
University of New York at Buffalo and is working on the completion of
his Masters in Physics Education at Buffalo State College.
If you wish to contact me, please email me at


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