Basic calculation

Excel allows you to do all kinds of calculations and respect mathematical rules.

We will see how to perform simple calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and also how to perform operations that use several different operators without making any mistakes 😉

The = sign

In Excel, all the calculations or formulas start with the = sign. It's COMPULSORY !!!

Add values

To add values in Excel, you just have to write in any cell an operation like this one.


In the cell, you see the result and in the formula bar, you see the formula 😉

Take care when you delete the contain of a cell, you could delete a formula and not a value.

Subtract values

In the same way, to subtract values, you simply write a formula like this



But if you write switch the 2 values, the result is not the same


Multiplication and division

Here again, to make a multiplication or division, you just have to write in a cell the operation preceded by the sign =

=2*12 =>24

=50/10 =>5

Let the fun begins

Order of operations

In math, all the operators don't have the same "power". That's what is called the order of operations.

Multiplication and division have a stronger rank than addition and subtraction.

Wrong example of calculation

What is the result of this calculation 2+3*4 ?

  • Many will say the result is 20. If you start from the left, you have 2+3, so it's 5.
  • And after, you have 5 (the result of the 2 first values) times 4 so result 20

But this solution doesn't respect the order of operations

Correct solution

In fact, we must start by the multiplication.

  • So first it's 3*4=12
  • Then, we do 2+12=14

And it's the result returns in the cell 😃

Facebook game

I'm sure you have seen this game in your Facebook timeline and when you look in the answers in comment, it's ... WOW 😲😲😲

But if you follow the order of operations, it's easy to find the correct result.

  • Row 1: 3 beer bottle = 30.
    • A bottle of beer it's 10 30/3 (ok for every one? 😉)
  • Row 2: 1 beer bottle + 2 hamburgers = 20
    • We know that a beer bottle = 10
    • So 2 hamburgers = 10 (20-10)
    • 1 hamburger = 5
  • Row 3: (here is the trick) 1 hamburger + 4 pintes = 13
    • 1 hamburger = 5
    • Here we have 2 group of 2 pintes. So there is 4 pintes
    • So, 13-5 (the hamburger) = 8. And 8/4=2.
    • The pinte = 2
  • Row 4: 1 hamburger + 1 pinte * 1 beer bottle = ?
    • So, if you respect the order of operations
    • 1 pinte * 1 beer bottle => 2*10 = 20
    • 20 + hamburger => 20+5 = 25 😉

Use parenthesis

Let's return to our first example 2+3*4

If you want to calculate the addition before the multiplication it's possible. For that, you must write the addition in parenthesis


This is because, in the order of operations, you have

  1. The parenthesis
  2. Multiplication and division
  3. Addition and subtraction

So in this case, the parenthesis is calculated before the multiplication 😉

Calculation with reference

Ok, use Excel with values in the calculation it's easy. But the best, is to re-use the contain of other cells in the formula.

The same rule of order of operations works with values and references


Related articles

Have a look at these other articles that could help you in your work

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