When using formulas in Excel you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Use Excel formulas to also make cell references in Excel.

Introduction

One of the most powerful features in Excel is the ability to calculate numerical information using formulas. Just like a calculator, Excel can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. In this lesson, we'll show you how to use cell references to create simple formulas.

Watch the video below to learn more about creating formulas in Excel.

Mathematical operators

Excel uses standard operators for formulas, such as a plus sign for addition (+), a minus sign for subtraction (-), an asterisk for multiplication (*), a forward slash for division (/), and a caret (^) for exponents.

All formulas in Excel must begin with an equals sign (=). This is because the cell contains, or is equal to, the formula and the value it calculates.

Understanding cell references

While you can create simple formulas in Excel using numbers (for example, =2+2 or =5*5), most of the time you will use cell addresses to create a formula. This is known as making a cell reference. Using cell references will ensure that your formulas are always accurate because you can change the value of referenced cells without having to rewrite the formula.

In the formula below, cell A3 adds the values of cells A1 and A2 by making cell references:

When you press Enter, the formula calculates and displays the answer in cell A3:

If the values in the referenced cells change, the formula automatically recalculates:

By combining a mathematical operator with cell references, you can create a variety of simple formulas in Excel. Formulas can also include a combination of cell references and numbers, as in the examples below: