How to Calculate in Excel

by Bryan Keythman

You can use Microsoft Excel to perform a wide range of math calculations, similar to a calculator. Each calculation in Excel requires a formula that starts with an equal sign and contains values and mathematical operators. You can type a number or another cell as a value in a formula. Excel uses +, -, *, /, % and ^ to represent addition, subtraction and negation, multiplication, division, percent and exponent, respectively. It calculates a formula in the following order: negative signs, percents, exponents, multiplication and division, and addition and subtraction. But you can use parentheses in your formulas to tell Excel to calculate in a different order.

Step 1

Click in cell A1 in a blank Excel worksheet.

Step 2

Type a number you want to calculate and press "Enter." For example, type "4" and press "Enter."

Step 3

Click in cell A2.

Step 4

Enter another number you want to calculate and press "Enter." For example, type "5" and press "Enter."

Step 5

Click in cell A3.

Type "=," the cell containing the first number you want to calculate, a mathematical operator, the cell containing the second number you want to calculate and any other numbers or operators you want to calculate with the first two numbers. Press "Enter" when you're done typing. For example, type "=A1+A2-(4-2)^2*(6/3)" and press "Enter." Excel plugs the numbers from the referenced cells A1 and A2 into the formula. It calculates the formula in the order of parentheses, exponent, multiplication then addition and subtraction from left to right. This results in the answer of "1" in cell A3.


  • You can also type only numbers and operators into a formula without referencing other cells.
  • After you've referenced a cell that contains a number in a formula, you can type a different number in the referenced cell and press "Enter," and Excel will automatically recalculate the formula.

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