Basic arithmetic in Excel

Formulas are the backbone of most advanced calculations within Excel. Think of a formula as an equation — it's a series of steps that lead to a final output. You can tell Excel that you're entering a formula in Excel by starting your input with the equals sign (=). For example, try entering the following into a cell:

Output: 9

Since Excel sees the = sign at the beginning of the line, it realizes that it's being given a formula to calculate. It then sees 5+4 and adds the two numbers together, outputting a final value of 9.

Formulas in Excel use the standard mathematical order of operations to evaluate. As such, operations within formulas are processed in this order:

  • Parentheses
  • Exponents (^)
  • Multiplication (*)
  • Division (/)
  • Addition (+)
  • Subtraction (-)

Take a look at the following equations, and see whether you can figure out how Excel arrives at the outputs specified:

Output: 12
Output: 9
Output: 3
Output: 24
Output: 144

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