Math students: how to use your Mac as a graphing calculator

Graphing a Line with Your Mac

Although your Mac comes with a Calculator app, you will find that it only supports basic, scientific, and programmer modes.

Unfortunately for those who are in advanced math courses in school, be it grade school or college, or for those that just need a hand in tutoring their children, the Calculator app doesn’t come with graphing functionality and it leaves you to fend for yourself.

A little known feature of your Mac, directly out of the box, is that it does have graphing functionality built into its default software, and in this tutorial, we’ll show you how to unleash it.

Graphing equations and inequalities with your Mac

I’m not going to be teaching math here, because that would be boring. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a way to double-check your work, having a graphing calculator is a great way to make sure you’re doing things right.

Rather than going out to the store and buying a new graphing calculator, or downloading some third-party software, you should know that your Mac already has an app bundled with the OS X operating system that lets you graph lines via their equations.

Hidden in the Utilities folder that can be found in the Applications folder, is an app called Grapher. This app makes it as easy as typing the equation you want to graph, and then hitting the Return key on your keyboard to graph an equation or inequality of any kind.

Grapher in Utilites Folder on Mac

After you launch it, you’ll need to choose the type of graphing template you want. For just about all mathematical equations and inequalities, you’ll want to choose the 2D Graph option and then click on the blue Choose button:

2D Graph Grapher App Mac

This launches a graphing interface where you can input an equation or inequality:

Grapher App UI

Simply type what it is that you wish to graph, whether it’s an equation or an inequality, and the app does the rest. With equations, the Mac will simply draw a black line where the equation would be found on the graph, and you can compare this to your own work to make sure you’re doing things right.

Graphing an equation on a Mac

Likewise, with inequalities, you can use the Mac to make sure you’re doing things right. In the case of inequalities, the Mac will shade the range of numbers that apply to the inequality blue, and leave the rest of the graph, which represents numbers that don’t apply to the inequality, blank:

Graphing an inequality on a Mac

Can I graph multiple equations or inequalities?

Now that you know your Mac can graph equations and inequalities in one of its stock apps, I know you must be asking yourself whether or not it’s possible to have multiple equations graphed on the same interface at once or not.

The answer is yes.

To have multiple equations or inequalities graphed on the same grid, you will simply use the + button at the bottom left of the application window.

Add a new equation to Grapher on Mac

This will allow you to add more equations or inequalities to the interface at one time rather than modifying the original equation or inequality over and over again.

mac graphing calculator - Multiple lines on one graph on a mac

The results are quite pleasant and allow you to see how one equation or inequality compares to another.

Another thing you should note is not only can you have multiple equations or multiple inequalities in a graph, but you can also mix and match and have both equations and inequalities on the same graphing grid.

You can get as complex as you want with these equations and inequalities, so long as you know how to use exponents and inequality symbols on your Mac.

Wrapping up

Grapher is an app on your Mac that was clearly made for another purpose than checking your math homework, but if I had known such an app existed on my Mac when I was in college, I probably would have flown through my homework a whole lot faster than I did.

That’s not to say I recommend you use the app for cheating, but when you want to make sure you didn’t totally mess up the work you already did, I think the Grapher app offers a lot of potential when you need a personal assistant to check your work against or you just need a cheap and easy graphing calculator.

Also read: How to use your Mac’s Calculator app as a unit converter

Are you a student that frequently has math homework involving graphing? If so, will you use Grapher to check your work? Share below!