How to Divide in Excel: It’s Easier Than You Think

excelCreating an Excel spreadsheet can be a formidable task if you’re not too familiar with excel formulas. Dividing in Excel is easiest when you use a formula. Don’t be overwhelmed though, formulas are simple to learn – you just need to know a few rules (kind of like math class). Once you learn those, you can go on to learn things like how to divide, how to multiply, how to subtract and how to add within your spreadsheet. These are great features to know when you’re trying to say, develop a financial forecast for your business, or create an invoice for a client. Excel has so many more great functions, but I can’t possibly cover them all here. So take some time to check out this Basic Excel course to get more familiar with the program.

What’s a formula?

A formula are the equations that make things happen in Excel. If you want to see subtract two numbers in two different cells, you’re going to use an subtraction formula that then gives you the answer. You can choose which cells you wish to have involved in the formula and exactly what you want to happen with the data selected. Formulas are one of the most important features in Excel, along with functions.

What are some formula rules?

For those of you just getting started with Excel formulas, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing out these equations. It’s kind of like learning a programming language, like HTML, there are rules you have to abide by in order to make the code do what you want. Here’s a few of those rules to get you started:

  • Formulas always begin with an equal sign ( = ). So an equation might be like =B2+B3.

  • The division symbol for these formulas is a slash ( / ), like =E2/F3.

  • Cells are identified by their column letter followed by their row number, so B1 or E8, for example.

  • Remember in math class how  the order of the formula makes all the difference? There’s a mnemonic device to help you remember order. Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally which stands for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication and division, addition and subtraction. This is the order in which equations are calculated, so it’s important to know this and remember it when writing out formulas.

  • You can click on a cell to add it to an equation. To get an answer for a math formula, put the = sign in the cell you wish to have the answer in. Now click on the cell you wish to add to the equation to automatically enter its cell name into the equation. So if you want the answer in cell C3, type = in that cell and then click on A1. A1 is now a part of your equation. You can also just type A1.

You might be interested in learning how to do more than just divide, and if so, this Excel for Beginners/Intermediates training could be just what you’re looking for.

How to Divide

Step 1

Open a new workbook in Excel by going to File–>New. If you have an existing workbook you would like to use, open it by going to File–>Open.

Step 2

Say we want to multiply cell D1 and E1 and put the answer in cell F1. Click on cell D1 and enter the number 100 in it. Now click on cell E1, right next to it, and enter the number 10. We want to divide 100 by 10.

If you already have a workbook created, figure out which cells you would like to divide.

Step 3

Click on cell F1. You can either type the formula directly into the cell, or type it in the formula bar at the top of your screen. Either way, in F1 you want to enter the formula that will divide cells D1 and E1, which is dividing 100 by 10. The equation looks like this: =D1/E1. Click away from the cell or press enter. You should see the number 10 appear, which, is the product of 100/10.

That’s it!

It may seem easier to just type =100/10 into cell F1, but you shouldn’t – and here’s why.

You can choose to create a formula that contains numbers like =100/10, but it’s much better if you reference the cell in the formula instead, like we did above with =D1/E1. Referencing the cells themselves allows the data within those cells to change and the answer to change accordingly.

For instance, if you specify that you want the total of D1/E1 to show up in F1, no matter what numbers are in cells D1 and E1, they will always be divided to get your answer in F1. But, if you put a formula like =100/10 in cell F1 and your data in D1 and E1 change, the answer in F1 will still be the product of the formula 100*10. This sounds more confusing than it is. Check out the pictures below to clear things up.

Here is the result with the formula =D1/E1 in cell F1:

If I change the data in cells D1 and E1 without changing the formula in F1, I’ll get the updated results.

Pretty easy, right?

However, if you were to not use the cell referenced formula, and use the numbers instead, you’ll get something like this:

See how the equation is now incorrect? 200/15 is not 10. But, 100/10 is. Since your formula used 100/10 instead of D1/E1, your answer in F1 will never change despite the change in data in cells D1 and E1.

So as you can see, sticking with the cell identifiers like D1 and E1 is going to provide you with a much more efficient and usable spreadsheet than would using integers. Dividing is much like other simple math functions in Excel, like multiply and addition. You just need to know what the symbol is for the kind of equation you want to do. Addition is a plus sign ( + ), multiplication is an asterisk ( * ), and subtraction is a minus sign ( – ). Play around with different formulas to see what you can accomplish! If you want learn some more complicated formulas, try this Excel Formulas course for starters.