This tutorial covers how to perform basic math operations and is aimed at beginning-level users of Excel and other similar spreadsheet programs such as LibreOffice Calc and Google Sheets.

Personally, I prefer using a spreadsheet over a calculator. The reason is simple. Spreadsheets allow me to scan for and correct typos much easier than do most calculators. This allows me to enter long series of numbers if needed.

The topics covered here are: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, parentheses, exponents, and the square root.

## Addition

Spreadsheets have two input methods when it comes to adding numbers.

formula | result |
---|---|

=2+3 | 5 |

=4+3+2 | 9 |

=2+3+4 | 9 |

formula | result |
---|---|

=sum(2,3) | 5 |

=sum(2,3,4) | 9 |

=sum(4,3,2) | 9 |

The way the second method is put together is a good example of a typical function, that is, it contains parentheses, with some values inside, and the values are separated by commas. Something else that is frequently found inside a function’s parentheses are *parameters*, but I will save that for a later discussion.

## Subtraction

formula | result |
---|---|

=3-1 | 2 |

=4-2-1 | 1 |

## Multiplication

Like addition, spreadsheets accept two statement types for performing multiplication.

formula | result |
---|---|

=2*3 | 6 |

=4*3*2 | 24 |

formula | result |
---|---|

=product(2,3) | 6 |

=product(4,3,2) | 24 |

## Division

Division, like subtraction, is performed using only one style of syntax.

formula | result |
---|---|

=4/2 | 2 |

=6/2/3 | 1 |

## Parentheses

You may remember a concept, *the order of operations*, from math class. The mnemonic device many use to remember it is *PEMDAS* or *Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally*. This is to help you remember to first do parentheses (brackets too), exponents (and roots), multiplication and division (they are equal), and addition and subtraction (also equal). When equal items are encountered, you revert to “from left to right” order.

A math teacher friend suggested this music video:

formula | result |
---|---|

=(4-3)*2 | 2 |

=4-3*2 | -2 |

=3/6-2 | -1.5 |

=3/(6-2) | 0.75 |

=((2+3)*3)/5 | 3 |

=2+3*3/5 | 3.8 |

## Exponents

The character *^* is pronounced *caret symbol*. It is found above the number 6 on standard QWERTY keyboards. This is what is used to perform calculations using exponents on a spreadsheet.

formula | result |
---|---|

=2^2 | 4 |

=2^3 | 8 |

=3^2 | 9 |

=3^3 | 27 |

=2^8 | 256 |

## Square Root

I rarely have the occasion to use it myself, but no basic math tutorial would be complete without covering the square root.

formula | result |
---|---|

=sqrt(9) | 3 |

=sqrt(144) | 12 |

=sqrt(256) | 16 |

**Show some love!** Did this tutorial work for you? Was it as clear as mud? Use the comment form. Ask questions, add a comment, or just share this post with someone you know that needs it.

If you find yourself in a pinch, you should know that **I am available to help with spreadsheet projects**.