Some spreadsheet templates will require you to use formulas or functions to perform calculations.

Formulas

Formulas are equations that add, subtract, multiply, or divide numbers that are entered in the cells. Formulas always begin with an equals sign (=), contain values or cell addresses, and use one or more of the following mathematical symbols:

  • + to add

  • - to subtract

  • * to multiply

  • / to divide

For example, you can type =A8-B8 into a cell to subtract the contents of cell B8 from cell A8. Or you can type =A8+B8 to add their contents together.

Spreadsheet template with $55,219 in cell A8, $18,363 in cell B8, and =A8-B8 in cell C8

Alternatively, you can type in the values instead of the cell addresses. For example, you can type =55219-18363 into the cell.

Spreadsheet template with $55,219 in cell A8, $18,363 in cell B8, and =55219-18363 in cell C8

Once you press Enter on your keyboard or click outside of the cell, the calculation will be performed and you’ll see the result inside the cell.

Functions

Functions also start with an equals sign (=) and include a series of values or cell addresses. But unlike formulas, functions also contain a name and parentheses around the values or cell addresses. The function name (e.g., “FV” or “NPV”) describes what the function is calculating (e.g., future value or net present value).

For example, by typing =FV(B2, B3, B4, B5) into a cell, you would be calculating the future value of the contents of cells B2, B3, B4, and B5.

This screenshot shows a spreadsheet template containing rows 1 through 6 and columns A and B. In column A, the TVM variables are listed: interest rate, number of years, payment, present value, and future value. In column B, the amounts are listed: 1%, 3, -$1, and -$10. In cell B6 is the function =FV(B2, B3, B4, B5).

Whether you use values or cell addresses in functions, remember that they must be separated by commas.

Once you’ve added all the cell addresses or values to your function, press Enter on your keyboard or click outside of the cell to perform the calculation.


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