Excel Formulas

The Tutorials

Chapter 2

Building Basic Formulas

This chapter is about building the simplest possible formulas in Excel. Use this practice to learn how you can make Excel perform basic calculations with ordinary numbers.

Exercise #1: Pocket calculator Excel

In this exercise you'll look at sample calculations and translate them into Excel's formula language.

  1. Begin by opening the Pocket calculator.xlsx spreadsheet.

    Click the link above to download the workbook file to your computer, then open it. Excel will start in protected view, because it doesn't know whether it should trust your file. To accept the file and switch out of protected view, click Enable Editing in the yellow bar at the top of the Excel window.

  2. In column A are six problems, described in words or shown with an equation picture. In column B, you must write the Excel formula that solves each one. For example, cell A4 asks you to calculate how far you can travel in five hours when driving 80 miles/hour. Move to cell B4 to write your answer.

  3. Type the equal sign (=) to start a new formula.

  4. Now you can write the calculation. In this example, you need to multiply distance you travel each hour (80) with the number of hours you're driving (5). Do you remember how to tell Excel to perform a multiplication?

    Excel has five essential operators that you can use for math:

    • Use + to add (=2+2 is 4)
    • Use - to subtract (=6-2 is 4)
    • Use * to multiply (=5*6 is 30)
    • Use / to divide (=8/2 is 4)
    • Use ^ to add an exponent (=3^2 means 3 squared, which is 9)
  5. Press the Enter key when you're finished to complete your formula. Your final formula should be =80*5

  6. Now try to fill in the missing formulas in cells B5, B6, B7, B8, and B9. In the last three you need to use brackets to control the order of operations, as described in the book. You'll know you've written the right formula if you get the answer that's shown in column C.

    If you don't get them all, you can find the formulas in the solution worksheet. (To get to the solution worksheet, click the Solution tab at the bottom of the Excel window.)