Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial

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Google Spreadsheet Step by Step Formula Tutorial

Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial
Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial. © Ted French

Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial - Overview

This tutorial covers the steps to creating and using formulas in a Google Docs Spreadsheet. It is intended for those with little or no experience in working with spreadsheet programs.

A Google Docs Spreadsheet formula allows you to perform calculations on data entered into the spreadsheet.

You can use a formula for basic number crunching, such as addition or subtraction, as well as more complex calculations such as payroll deductions or averaging a student's test results.

In addition, if you change the data the spreadsheet will automatically recalculate the answer without you having to re-enter the formula.

Following the step by step instructions on the following pages covers how to create and use a basic formula in a Google Doc Spreadsheet.

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Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 1 of 3

Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial
Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial. © Ted French

Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 1 of 3

The following example creates a basic formula. The steps used to create this basic formula are the same ones to follow when writing more complex formulas. The formula will first add the numbers 5 + 3 and then subtract 4. The final formula will look like this:

= A1 + A2 - A3

Step 1: Entering the data

Note: For help with this tutorial refer to the image above.

Type the following data into the appropriate cell.

A1 : 3
A2 : 2
A3 : 4
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Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 2 of 3

Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial
Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial. © Ted French

Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 2 of 3

When creating a formula in a Google Spreadsheet, you ALWAYS start by typing the equal sign. You type it in the cell where you want the answer to appear.

Note: For help with this example refer to the image above.

  1. Click on cell A4 (outlined in black in the image) with your mouse pointer.

  2. Type the equal sign ( = ) in cell A4.
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Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 3 of 3

Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial
Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial. © Ted French

Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial: Step 3 of 3

Following the equal sign, we add in the cell references of the cells containing our data.

By using the cell references of our data in the formula, the formula will automatically update the answer if the data in cells A1, A2, or A3 changes.

The best way of adding cell references is by using the Google Spreadsheets feature called pointing.

Pointing allows you to click with your mouse on the cell containing your data to add its cell reference to the formula.

After the equal sign added in step 2

  1. Click on cell A1 with the mouse pointer to enter the cell reference into the formula.

  2. Type a plus ( + ) sign.

  3. Click on cell A2 with the mouse pointer to enter the cell reference into the formula.

  4. Type a minus ( - ) sign.

  5. Click on cell A3 with the mouse pointer to enter the cell reference into the formula.

  6. Press the ENTER key on the keyboard.

  7. The answer 1 should appear in cell A4.

  8. Click on cell A4. The complete formula = A1 + A2 - A3 is shown in the formula bar above the worksheet.
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Mathematical Operators in a Google Spreadsheet Formula

The mathematical operator keys on the number pad are used to create Excel Formulas.
The mathematical operator keys on the number pad are used to create Excel Formulas. © Ted French

Mathematical Operators Used in a Formula

As seen in the previous steps, writing a formula in a Google Spreadsheet is not difficult. Just combine the cell references of your data with the correct mathematical operator.

The mathematical operators used in Excel formulas are similar to the ones used in math class.

  • Subtraction - minus sign ( - )
  • Addition - plus sign ( + )
  • Division - forward slash ( / )
  • Multiplication - asterisk ( * )
  • Exponentiation - caret ( ^ )
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The Google Spreadsheet Order of Operations

Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial
Google Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial. © Ted French

The Google Spreadsheet Order of Operations

If more than one operator is used in a formula, there is a specific order that a Google Spreadsheet will follow to perform these mathematical operations.

This order of operations can be changed by adding brackets to the equation. An easy way to remember the order of operations is to use the acronym:

BEDMAS

The Order of Operations is:

  • Brackets
    Exponents
    Division
    Multiplication
    Addition
    Subtraction

How the Order of Operations Works

Any operation(s) contained in brackets will be carried out first followed by any exponents.

After that, a Google Spreadsheet considers division or multiplication operations to be of equal importance, and carries out these operations in the order they occur left to right in the equation.

The same goes for the next two operations – addition and subtraction. They are considered equal in the order of operations. Which ever one appears first in an equation, either addition or subtraction, is the operation carried out first.

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Your Citation
French, Ted. "Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial." ThoughtCo, Jun. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/google-spreadsheet-formula-tutorial-3123950. French, Ted. (2017, June 16). Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/google-spreadsheet-formula-tutorial-3123950 French, Ted. "Google Spreadsheet Formula Tutorial." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/google-spreadsheet-formula-tutorial-3123950 (accessed January 21, 2018).