How to Divide in Excel Using a Formula

Division Formulas, #DIV/O! Formula Errors, and Calculating Percents

Excel spreadsheet open in macOS showing Data, Result, and Formula columns

To divide two numbers you need to create a formula since there is no DIVIDE function in Excel.

Important points to remember about Excel formulas:

  • Formulas in Excel always begin with the equal sign ( = );
  • The equal sign always goes in the cell where you want the answer to go;
  • The division symbol is the forward slash ( / );
  • The formula is completed by pressing the Enter key on the keyboard.

Using Cell References in Formulas

Although it is possible to enter numbers directly into a formula, it is much better to enter the data into worksheet cells and then use the addresses or references of those cells in the formula as shown in the image above.

By using cell references – such as A1 or C5 – rather than the actual data in a formula, later, if it becomes necessary to change the data, it is a simple matter of replacing the data in the cells rather than rewriting the formula.

Normally, the results of the formula will update automatically once the data changes.

Division Formula Example

As seen in row 2 in the image above, this example creates a formula in cell B2 that divides the data in cell A2 by the data in A3.

The finished formula in cell B2 will be:

= A2/A3

Entering the Data

  1. Type the number 20 in cell A2 and press the Enter key on the keyboard;

    20 entered into cell A2 in Excel
  2. Type the number 10 in cell A3 and press the Enter key.

    10 entered into cell A3 in Excel

Entering the Formula Using Pointing

Although it is possible to just type the formula


into cell B2 and have the correct answer of 2 display in that cell, it is better to use pointing to add the cell references to formulas in order to minimize the possibility of errors created by typing in the wrong cell reference.

Pointing involves clicking on the cell containing the data with the mouse pointer to add the cell reference to the formula.

To enter the formula:

  1. Type an equal sign in cell B2 to begin the formula.

    = entered into cell B1 in Excel
  2. Click on cell A2 with the mouse pointer to add that cell reference to the formula after the equal sign.

    A2 entered into cell B1 in Excel with a click
  3. Type the division sign - the forward slash - ( / ) into cell B2 after the cell reference.

    / (division sign) entered into cell B2 in Excel
  4. Click on cell A3 with the mouse pointer to add that cell reference to the formula after the division sign;

    A3 entered into cell B2 in Excel with a click
  5. Press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the formula;

  6. The answer 2 should be present in cell B2 since 20 divided by 10 is equal to 2;

  7. Even though the answer is seen in cell B2, clicking on that cell will display the formula =A2/A3 in the formula bar above the worksheet.

Changing the Formula Data

To test the value of using cell references in a formula, change the number in cell A3 from 10 to 5 and press the Enter key on the keyboard.

Changing cell A2 to 5 in Excel

The answer in cell B2 should automatically update to 4 to reflect the change in data in cell A3.

#DIV/O! Formula Errors

The most common error associated with division operations in Excel is the #DIV/O! error value.

This error is displayed when the denominator in the division formula is equal to zero – which is not allowed in ordinary arithmetic.

#DIV/0! error in cell B2 in Excel

The most likely reason for this happening is that an incorrect cell reference was entered into the formula or, as shown in row 3 in the image above, the formula was copied to another location using the fill handle and the changing cell references results in the error.

Calculate Percentages With Division Formulas

A percentage is a just a comparison between two numbers that make use of the division operation.

More specifically, it is a fraction or decimal that is calculated by dividing the numerator by the denominator and multiplying the result by 100.

The general form of the equation would be:

= (numerator/denominator)*100

When the results of a division operation – or quotient – is less one, Excel represents it, by default, as a decimal, as shown in row 4, where the numerator is set to 10, the denominator to 20, and the quotient is equal to 0.5.

That result can be changed to a percent by changing the formatting in the cell to percent formatting from the default General format - as shown by the 50% result displayed in cell B5 in the image below.

Percent result in cell B5 in Excel

That cell contains the identical formula as cell B4. The only difference is the formatting on the cell.

In effect, when percent formatting is applied in Excel, the program multiplies the decimal value by 100 and adds the percent symbol.

Creating More Complex Formulas

To expand the formulas in the image to include additional operations - such as multiplication or addition - just continue to add the correct mathematical operator followed by the cell reference containing the new data.

Before mixing different mathematical operations together in a formula, however, it is important to understand the order of operations that Excel follows when evaluating a formula.

For practice, try this step by step example of a more complex formula.