Tools to Help You Make the Grade

Pens, paper, notebooks and backpacks aren't the only back-to-school items that you might want to add to your shopping list.

Each year's school supply list seems to grow larger than the previous year's list.  In our house, I have enough sticky notes, notebooks, pens and highlighters carried over from years past. Once you cross off everything on the must-have list, you might want to consider looking at some of these items to help your students start the year off right:

  • A good graphing calculator that doesn't break the bank. From middle school and up, your budding mathematician will require a calculator that can keep up with the new skills acquired in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus.  Many schools will require a particular brand, but if the options are open there is a great calculator that balances power and price.  Consider the Casio FX-975 (About $49.95 at .
  • Headphones that keep distractions out. If you have more than one student working on homework, or a child who needs help reducing distractions, consider noise-cancelling headphones. These not only deliver sound, but they also provide anti-noise filters so that you can hear music clearly at lower volume levels. It also can be helpful for the whole family if your student finds that listening to the latest techno beats help with concentration, but drives the rest of the family crazy. One affordable option is this pair of noise cancelling headphones from Sony ($49.99 at ).
  • Laptop cooling pad. If you have ever used a laptop, you know that they can generate a lot of heat. This is not only uncomfortable for the user, but can result in damage to the electronics of the laptop if they overheat. There are many cooling pads on the market that include fans and also create room for airflow between the laptop and your lap. The prices can range wildly, but a good first choice is this Belkin cooling pad that is USB powered ($17.88 at ).
  • A voice recorder. If your college student is an auditory learner and they have lecture classes, a digital audio recorder is a great gadget to add to the backpack. A small recorder with long battery life and a semester's worth of recording time can be found for under $50. Try this Olympus model VN-7000 ($29.99 after $10.00 rebate from Staples).
  • If you are considering upgrading your student's cellphone—or even your own—to a smartphone so you can better manage a new slate of conferences and meetings, Verizon Wireless is offering a new 300MB data plan for current Virginia customers.  
  • If you do need to upgrade your laptop, there are several student offers available. Staples customers can get a $100 Visa prepaid card when they show their student ID and purchase a qualifying computer.  Apple is giving students $100 in credits for Mac App store with qualifying purchase. HP, Lenovo and Dell both offer student pricing on purchases made online.



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