How to do calculations in Excel

The tutorial shows how to do arithmetic calculations in Excel and change the order of operations in your formulas.

When it comes to calculations, there is almost noting that Microsoft Excel cannot do, from totaling a column of numbers to solving complex linear programming problems. For this, Excel provides a few hundred predefined formulas, called Excel functions. In addition, you can use Excel as a calculator to do math - add, divide, multiply, and subtract numbers as well as raise to power and find roots.

How to do calculations in Excel

Making calculations in Excel is easy. Here's how:

  • Type the equal symbol (=) in a cell. This tells Excel that you are entering a formula, not just numbers.
  • Type the equation you want to calculate. For example, to add up 5 and 7, you type =5+7
  • Press the Enter key to complete your calculation. Done!

Instead of entering numbers directly in your calculation formula, you can put them in separate cells, and then reference those cells in your formula, e.g. =A1+A2+A3

The following table shows how to perform basic arithmetic calculations in Excel.

Operation Operator Example Description
Addition + (plus sign) =A1+A2 Adds up the numbers in cells A1 and A2.
Subtraction - (minus sign) =A1-A2 Subtracts the number in A2 from the number in A1.
Multiplication * (asterisk) =A1*A2 Multiplies the numbers in A1 and A2.
Division / (forward slash) =A1/A2 Divides the number in A1 by the number in A2.
Percent % (percent) =A1*10% Finds 10% of the number in A1.
Raising to power (Exponentiation) ^ (caret) =A2^3 Raises the number in A2 to the power of 3.
Square root SQRT function =SQRT(A1) Finds the square root of the number in A1.
Nth root ^(1/n)
(Where n is the root to find)
=A1^(1/3) Finds the cube root of the number in A1.

The results of the above Excel calculation formulas may look something similar to this:
Excel calculation formulas

Apart from that, you can combine values from two or more cells in a single cell by using the concatenation operator (&) like this:

=A2&" "&B2&" "&C2

A space character (" ") is concatenated in between cells to separate the words:

Concatenating values from several cells

You can also compare cells by using logical operators such as "greater than" (>), "less than" (<), "greater than or equal to" (>=), and "less than or equal to" (<=). The result of comparison are logical values of TRUE and FALSE:

Comparing cells in Excel using logical operators

The order in which Excel calculations are performed

When you do two or more calculations in a single formula, Microsoft Excel calculates the formula from left to right, according to the order of operations shown in this table:

Precedence Operation
1 Negation, i.e. reversing the number sign, as in -5, or -A1
2 Percent (%)
3 Exponentiation, i.e. raising to power (^)
4 Multiplication (*) and division (/), whichever comes first
5 Addition (+) and subtraction (-), whichever comes first
6 Concatenation (&)
7 Comparison (>, <, >=, <=, =)

Since the order of calculations affects the final result, you need to know how to change it.

How to change the order of calculations in Excel

Like you do in math, you can change the order of Excel calculations by enclosing the part to be calculated first in parentheses.

For example, the calculation =2*4+7 tells Excel to multiply 2 by 4, and then add 7 to the product. The result of this calculation is 15. By enclosing the addition operation in parentheses =2*(4+7), you instruct Excel to add up 4 and 7 first, and then multiply the sum by 2. And the result of this calculation is 22.

Another example is finding a root in Excel. To get the square root of, say, 16, you can use either this formula:


or an exponent of 1/2:


Technically, the above equation tells Excel to raise 16 to the power of 1/2. But why do we enclose 1/2 in parentheses? Because if we don't, Excel will raise 16 to the power of 1 first (an exponent operation is performed before division), and then divide the result by 2. Since any number raised to the power of 1 is the number itself, we would end up dividing 16 by 2. In contrast, by enclosing 1/2 in parentheses you tell Excel to divide 1 by 2 first, and then raise 16 to the power of 0.5.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the same calculation with and without parentheses produces different results:
Changing the order of operations in Excel

This is how you make calculations in Excel. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

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Category: Excel Tips

Table of contents

63 responses to "How to do calculations in Excel"

  1. Dave says:

    Could you show us how to build a financial model in Excel?

  2. Rae says:

    Hi, I have a 2 part question.
    1st, upon looking at my formula to try to reverse engineer it, I noticed the math seems a bit weird. I have this formula to calculate the amounts of 2 components based on the ratio and the total weight (tw=total weight, ra=ratio a, rb=ratio b, aw=weight of part a, bw=weight of part b. I'll use these instead of the cell #'s here). My formula looks like this bw=tw*(rb/(ra+rb)) and the formula for the other part is ra=tw*(ra/(ra+rb)).
    the issue is that when I do out the math in steps, based on order of operations, I get a decimal, but the formula gives me a whole #. Why don't I get the same result?
    Part 2; how can I create 2 formulas that will solve this backwards, as in, plug in the weight of a or b and get what my total weight and the weight of the other part as a result?
    Thank you so much! I've been cracking my brain open over this for days and searching all over the web for an answer that I don't know an easy question to!!

  3. Rae says:

    One last point, sorry to go on:
    to illustrate, I'll plug in 66 as the tw, 100 as ra and 10 as rb. in the formula I get 60 and 6 for a and b, which seems like it did not respect the parenthesis, as 66*(100/(100+10))= 66*(100/110)= 66*0.9090909091= 60.0000000006, while 66*100/(100+10)=6600/110=60 which is what the formula gives me.

    • Hi Rae,
      1. Your formula is correct, you do not get the same result because of
      rounding off. Check the result again with this formula (it will round to 10 decimal places):
      =TEXT(66 * ROUND((100 / (100 + 10)),10),"0.0000000000")

      2. Try these formulas:
      tw= aw/(ra/(ra+rb))


      = TEXT(60 / ROUND((100 / (100 + 10)),10),"0.0000000000")


      = TEXT(6 / ROUND((10 / (100 + 10)),10),"0.0000000000")

      And your last point, try the following:

  4. andrews says:

    You are so good, I've learn a lot from you expecially the capitalization and the calculations.

    good programmer keep it up

  5. johanna says:

    How do I get all three items in brackets to total then divide by 2.378

  6. jeni says:

    Thanks a lot!!
    That was helpful...

  7. Kinz says:

    Hey! how do i divide a number into 10000, 5000, 1000 and 250? (For ex. I want to divide 77350 into 7(10000) 1(5000) 2(1000) 2(250) so it would also round up to 77500 (the numbers should end either by 000, 250, 500 or 750)

  8. SOPHIA says:

    Theory Hours Practical Hours Total Hours
    Prescribed Attended % Prescribed Attended % Prescribed Attended %

    150 99.00 150 100 300 99.50
    150 97.00 500 100 650
    150 95.00 100 100 250 95.50
    150 87.00 900 100 1050 87.50
    600 95% 1650 100% 2250

  9. Joe says:

    Can I configure cells to automatically calculate pre-determined costs prior to entering the primary value? i.e. if I have a fixed shipping cost but the price of the product varies.

  10. Ben says:

    Can you advise how to set up excel to execute this formula.
    13.6 x [(SL + SS) – W.T.] x W.T.
    I'm trying to set up a spreadsheet for a user to input SL, SS and W.T. to calculate the weight of an item.

  11. Suzy says:

    Formula: Qty-QtySold-Qtyreturned

    If I start with 4 -1-1 it will equal 2 This is Correct
    If I start with 4 and leave blank the sold or returned fields the result shows BLANK.
    I am so frustrated and cannot figure out what is wrong>>>> Please advise Thank you.

  12. Yogesh tailor says:

    Row A B C D
    5 10 15 20 ONE LINE FORMULA

  13. Ahmadshah says:

    Great and the greatest work has done! I learned very easily Microsoft excel

  14. hazim says:

    hi how to key in this formula in excel =(10000×5266)-(10000×342)/(1.319)×(16841-11368/1.319)-1072.4)^2)*(100+6.0)*(1.458)

  15. Wondering says:

    I am not the most skilled at excel , but am enjoying the discovery as i go.
    In creating a calculating option for a tool i am working on, I am wanting the number 1 to calculate to total a maximum of 5 as 1 is selected from a drop down option.

    Using conditional formatting and data validation i cannot get the the numbers to add when i want to determine a difference with the same number.

    For example i have selected number 1 in the drop down list for selection along with other choices. The selection I want is listed below (as laid out in data validation.)
    1, 1L, 1E,
    I want 1 L and 1 E a certain color like green (using Conditional formatting) to pop up automatically as 1 L or 1 E is selected.
    I want the number 1 alone to have no color
    I want to have all the number 1'S to calculate as they are selected
    1 L and 1 E dont calculate (1 and anything i put dont calculate, )
    is there a way?? Can you help?
    I hope this makes sense

    Thank you for your time

  16. Kerleisha says:

    hi good day
    while typing my stuff in excel and trying the calculate when I put a =B1+B2 the part with the B2 turns to read and the end product just says value can u all tell me where I went wrong

  17. Ram says:

    Excel alloys _______ calculation

  18. Guled says:

    No. Salary Range New Tax Rate. Deduction
    1. 0 – 600 Birr. Non-Taxable –
    2 601 – 1,650 Birr 10%. 60 Birr
    3. 1,651 – 3,200 Birr. 15% 142.50 Birr
    4. 3,201 – 5,250 Birr. 20% 302.50 Birr
    5. 5,251 – 7,800 Birr. 25%. 565 Birr
    6. 7,801 – 10,900 Birr 30%. 955 Birr
    7. Over 10,900 Birr 35%. 1,500 Birr how do i make a formula

  19. Mark says:

    If I would like to multiply (10000 x 8%) ÷12. Is the formula (10000*8%)/12? I can't seem to get it right on excel. And also if I want to calculate (10000x8%) x 2 then ÷ 24, What will be the formula like? Appreciate your time and thank you in advance!

  20. Matthew Gannon says:

    Question.. I want to have this formula in a cell (200)/(1+x/100)=n, I want the formula to be invisible in the box and only put out a number (n) when I type in a value for x in the formula cell, thanks

  21. Mark Nikrandt says:

    Hi, I need to calculate the Inductance formula. The Reactance (XL) is in cell K56 and f=60. The calculation is XL/2PIf. I have tried ((K56)/(2*pi*60)) and variations of this and cannot get it correct. Can you help?

  22. Rhonda says:

    I have excel directories to track test conducted at each location. The directory has columns that state positive or negative with result testing. How do I create a summary page that will calculate the positive and negative findings?

    Thank you,

  23. Calkvin says:

    Excel spread sheet, why when making an percentage formular calculation does it show a negative amount?

  24. Daria says:


    Could you please advise how I could calculate customer discount... Example:
    Total discount to distributor 42%, they have margin of 9%, what will be the % discount that end customer receives?

  25. Charles says:

    I have to calculate (11/6) to the power 54. How can I do this on excel? I cannot find the caret function on excel.

  26. Robin says:

    how do I use a formula on a spreadsheet on a number of entries without having to enter it each time

  27. abubakar says:

    thanks but seriously I don't get it all I need more explanation from the scratch

  28. Filipović says:

    Hello. How I can make in one cell to stay this 2+2*3 and in other cell result of this?

  29. Filipović says:

    Thx. And now how to hide = in cell A1?

  30. Marko Filipovic says:

    Thank you. Is possible to add an equal sign before a value in excel automatically?

  31. Rhia says:

    how to compute or solution in this equation in excel 15^5*3+10+2(6)=? thank u.

  32. Dailyn says:

    hi I would like to know how to calculate on excel and learning ad doing = but it show B4:bc what should I do them thanks

  33. Jibran Haider says:

    Hi, I need to know that which formula i can put for my attendance report for On Time, Late inn, Early Out, Absent. Please help me out for this.

    • Hi,
      Your task is not completely clear to me. Without seeing your data it is difficult to give you any advice. Please describe your problem in more detail. Provide me with an example of the source data and the expected result. It’ll help me understand it better and find a solution for you.

  34. Stephen Fielding says:

    I need to create a formula in a cell that changes based on the value in another cell.

    For example, if the value in cell R2 is "E" i want to calculate 8.5% of cell I2 and display this in cell S2 AND if R2 is 'N' I want to calculate 13.5% of cell I2 and display this in cell S2 instead

    Is this possible, and if so can someone please provide the formula?

  35. Marko Filipovic says:


    How I can sum only the number from cells like this FR - 1?

  36. John says:

    125 minus 45.98 minus 7.98 multiple 10000

  37. Nida says:

    Hi. Is there a formula to count how many times a certain number appears in a column? I have a spreadsheet with 0, 1, 2, and 3s in each column. I have to manually count how many 1s, 2s, and 3s and enter it into a different table to create graphs. It's painstaking work. Is there a formula instead to do the calculation? Thank you

  38. Grainne says:

    Calculate pensions at 9% ..
    In wages ..

  39. Sipho says:

    My wookbook is no longer calculate automatically because I add extra column, please assist on how I'm going to fix this calculation situation

  40. Alloycius says:

    Hi, how do you formulate a cell to pull information from another cell but it needs to Show 1 as 5, 2 as 4, 3 as 3, 4 as 2 and 5 as 1?

    is there a formula from this?

  41. Angelie Bajenting says:

    Hello please help me, what is the formula if each row has different price.

    Sulop M.S 75 (23.50) 36 (25) : What is the sum total of this column? Before adding all column it should be multiply for their each price.
    DJ Sean 38 (23.50) 72 (25)

    Thank you,

  42. Chris Dawson says:

    Hi there,
    Im trying to excel to pick single or multiple values from a calculation and place them into certain rows/column's. For example excel has calculated a number 2.56 i need it to pick numbers from certain column's

    65 10.03
    80 7.4
    100 2.4
    So 2.56 is greater than 2.4 so I need it to grab 80 and 65 and place them into a another column..I hope this makes sense and is this possible

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