How to Calculate Formulas in Excel Spreadsheets

By Stephanie Ellen

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application that can help you enter, sort and manage huge amounts of data. Excel can help you make charts and graphs, create reports and apply formulas to specified cells or ranges of cells. Formulas can check balances, create totals, display the date or even convert numbers from Arabic to decimal. Excel formulas work like a basic calculator, and follow the same kinds of rules you would use for a basic scientific calculator.

Step 1

Select the cell you would like to display the calculation in by clicking it with your mouse. Think of this cell as the results line on your calculator.

Step 2

Enter the calculation you would like to perform into the cell. A calculation needs to have an equals sign ("=") before it, so that Excel recognizes it as a formula. For example, "=5+10" would add the numbers 5 and 10, "=A1-10" would subtract 10 from the contents of cell A1 and "=10/5" would divide 10 by 5.

Step 3

Press "Enter" to see the result displayed in the cell. For example, if you enter the formula "=10-5" into cell B1 and press "Enter," the result "5" would be displayed in the cell.

Tips & Warnings

  • Excel recognizes most of the regular symbols for mathematics (for example, addition "+" and subtraction "-"), but it also has hundreds of built in formulas to help you perform functions on series of cells. Access information about these formulas by clicking on the "?" symbol in the top right of the screen and entering "functions" into Help.