How to Multiply in Excel and a Few Formula Pointers

howtomultiplyinexcelCreating an efficient excel spreadsheet can be a daunting task if you don’t know anything about excel formulas. To multiply in Excel you will need to use a formula. You shouldn’t be deterred though, formulas are easy to learn – you just need to know a few universal rules. Once you learn those, you can go on to learn things like how to multiply, how to divide, how to add and how to subtract within your spreadsheet. These are handy features when you’re trying to say, create an invoice, or develop a financial forecast for your business. Let’s hop to it.

What is a formula?

In excel, formulas are the equations that make things happen. If you want to add the numbers in two different cells, you’re going to use an addition formula that then gives you the sum. 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 arguably the most important feature of using an Excel workbook. Formulas can get pretty complicated, way more complicated than we will discuss here. If you‘re curious what else you can do with these equations in Excel, spend some time in this Excel Formulas training.

What are some formula tips?

If you’re new to Excel, and new to formulas, there are a few things you should always remember when writing out these equations. It’s kind of like learning computer programming code, there are rules you have to abide by in order to make the code do what you want without error. Here are some of those rules you’ll want to make note of.

  • Formulas always, always begin with an equal sign ( = ). So it’ll be like =A1.

  • The multiply symbol for excel formulas is an asterisk ( * ).

  • Like math class, the order of the formula makes all the difference. Remember the mnemonic device Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally? It stands for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication and division, addition and subtraction. This is the order in which equations are calculated, so make sure you remember it.

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

  • You can use the Excel “pointing” feature. 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.

Alright, so you know some basics now. Time to show you how to multiply, which is probably one of the easiest things to do in Excel. If you’re using Excel 2013 like I am, you should be able to follow these directions to a T. If you’re using an older version, things may look a little different, but the gist will be the same. Learn more about the improvements made to Excel 2013.

How to Multiply

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

For examples sake, we’re going to multiply cell A1 and B1 and put the answer in cell C1. Click on cell A1 and enter the number 13 in it. Now click on cell B1, right next to it, and enter the number 14. This will be the data we are multiplying.

If you already have a workbook created, identify which cells you would like to multiply together.

Step 3

Click on cell C1. 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 C1 you want to enter the formula that will multiply cells A1 and B1, which is multiplying 13 by 14. The equation looks like this: =A1*B1 now press enter. You should see the number 182 appear, which, is the product of 13×14.

That’s it! Maybe you’re wondering why you couldn’t just type =13*14 into cell C1. The truth is, you can, but you shouldn’t.

Here’s why.

You can choose to create a formula that contains numbers like =13*14, but it’s much better if you reference the cell in the formula instead, like we did above with =A1*B1. Referencing the cells themselves allows the data within those cells to change without affecting the functionality of the formula.

So, if you specify that you want the total of A1*B1 to show up in C1, no matter what numbers are in cells A1 and B1, they will always be multiplied to get your answer in C1. But, if you put a formula like =13*14 in cell C1 and your data in A1 and B1 change, the answer in C1 will still be the product of the formula 13*14. This probably sounds super confusing, but it’s not. The pictures below should help.

Here is the result with the formula =A1*B1 in cell C1:

Now, I can change the data in cells A1 and B1 without changing the formula in C1, but I’ll get the updated results.

See how nice and easy that is?

Now, if you were to not use the cell referenced formula, and used the numbers instead, this is what it would look like:

Notice that the equation is now incorrect, 28×11 is not 182. But, 13×14 is 182. Since your formula used 13*14 instead of A1*B1, you’re answer in C1 will never change despite the change in data in cells A1 and B1.

Expand the Formula

Now that you can multiply data in excel, you may be wondering how to do add more to your formula, like adding and subtracting after multiplying, or adding two multiplied cells together. It’s just as easy as writing the basic multiplication formula except this time you have to keep in mind the order of operations. (Remember above, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally.)

For simplicity sake, lets take the product of A1 and B1 and multiply it by the product of A2 and B2. We will put the answer in C3.

Step 1

Keep the data entered into A1 and B2, 13 and 14, respectively. Now in A2 put the number 11 and in B2 put the number 15. Put the multiplication formula into cell C2, just like above when we put the formula into C1. This formula, as you may have guessed, will be =A2*B2, it’ll look like this:

Step 2

We want to see what the total is when we multiply these two products, so in a normal math equation: 182×165. Since we don’t want to use the actual numbers 182 and 165, for the reasons stated above, we need to create an equation that will always be correct no matter if the values change. This formula will be put into cell C3, just to keep it looking organized. We can do this two ways, one very simple, and one more complicated for the sake of example.

Simple equation: =C1*C2

Complicated equation: =(A1*B1)*(A2*B2)

Both of these formulas should give you the same result of 30030

Spend some time playing around with these equations. You can do virtually anything in Excel if you know how to write up the formula. For more formula guidance and tips, try this advanced formula and functions tutorial for Excel.