Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Excel’s Order of Operations
Creating a Basic
Formula
multiplication (*), division (/), and exponentiation (^). Table 17-1 lists these
ingredients, also known as arithmetic operators .
Numbers . These ingredients are known as constants or literal values , because
they never change (unless you edit the formula).
Cell references . These references point to another cell, or a range of cells, that
you need data from in order to perform a calculation. For example, say you have
a list of 10 numbers. A formula in the cell beneath this list may refer to all 10 of
the cells above it in order to calculate their average.
Functions . Functions are specialized formulas built into Excel that let you
perform a wide range of calculations. For example, Excel provides dedicated
functions that calculate sums and averages, standard deviations, yields, cosines
and tangents, and much more.
Spaces . Excel ignores these. However, you can use them to make a formula
easier to read. For example, you can write the formula =3*5 + 6*2 instead of
=3*5+6*2 . (The only exception to this rule applies to cell ranges, where spaces
have a special meaning. You’ll see this described on page 473.)
Table 17-1. Excel’s arithmetic operators
Operator
Name
Example
Result
+
Addition
=1+1
2
Subtraction
=1−1
0
*
Multiplication
=2*2
4
/
Division
=4/2
2
^
Exponentiation
=2^3
8
%
Percent
=20%
0.20
Note: The percentage (%) operator divides a number by 100.
Excel’s Order of Operations
For computer programs and human beings alike, one of the basic challenges when it
comes to reading and calculating formula results is figuring out the order of
operations —mathematician-speak for deciding which calculations to perform first when
there’s more than one calculation in a formula. For example, given the formula:
=10 - 8 * 7
the result, depending on your order of operations, is either 14 or -46. Fortunately,
Excel abides by the standard rules for order of operations, meaning it doesn’t
necessarily process your formulas from left to right. Instead, it evaluates complex formulas
piece-by-piece in this order:
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