Using the SUM Function in Excel

Using the SUM Function in Excel
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  • 0:01 The SUM Function
  • 0:39 Adding Numbers Together
  • 2:45 Using SUM to Subtract
  • 3:43 Performing More Than…
  • 5:07 Other Examples
  • 5:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

When you need to perform calculations to add, subtract, divide and multiply, the SUM function is perfect for helping to carry out those tasks. This lesson will introduce you to the SUM function and explain how to use SUM in your formulas.

The SUM Function

Functions are used to perform mathematical calculations in Excel. There are many different types of functions, depending on the calculation you need to perform; however the most common type is the SUM function. SUM is normally used to add a range of cells together. However, you can also use the SUM function to subtract, multiply and divide.

This lesson will introduce you to the SUM function in Excel and explain how to use it in a formula. We will also take a look at different example formulas where the SUM function is used.

Adding Numbers Together

The best way to learn about the SUM function is to start with an example Excel worksheet. Imagine you put together a budget for college expenses. You have numbers for three semesters, and the worksheet is grouped into expenses and income.

Sample excel spreadsheet

You have entered the expenses for the fall semester into column B, specifically B3 through B7. You want to put the total expenses in B15. Now, there are a few ways to enter a formula, but let's look at the steps I consider to be the easiest:

  1. Select the cell where you want to add your formula (in our example, this is B15).
  2. Type =SUM(B3:B7). Notice how Excel highlights the range of cells that will be added.
  3. Hit enter.

Excel sheet using SUM function

That's it! Now that wasn't so bad was it? Following the same steps, you can add the totals for income as well.

Let me share a quick tip. When we entered the formula, we typed the cell reference B3:B7. If you prefer, you can highlight or select the range of cells you want Excel to add or SUM. The steps would look like this:

  1. Select the cell where you want to add your formula.
  2. Type '=SUM('
  3. Select or highlight the range of cells to add.
  4. Type ')'
  5. Hit enter.

Typing the cell reference is easy if the range of cells is small. However, if you had a long list of numbers and were not sure of the exact cell reference, using the highlight option comes in handy.

Using SUM to Subtract

You can use other operators, such as subtract, in formulas that use the SUM function. In our sample worksheet, we have added the expenses and the income. Now we need to create a formula that will take the income, subtract the expenses and give us the amount of what is left over - or our spending money. In the case of our college budget, we would need to subtract B15(expenses) from B16(income). For this example, let's put the left-over dollar amount in B18.

Sample excel spreadsheet

  1. Select the cell where you want to add your formula.
  2. Type =SUM(B16-B15).
  3. Hit enter.

Perfect! Now we know how much extra money we will have for each semester.

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