How to Multiply Numbers in Google Spreadsheets

Numbers, charts and graphs

 Sean Gladwell/Getty Images

The easiest way to multiply two numbers in Google Spreadsheets is to create a formula in a worksheet cell.

Important points to remember about Google Spreadsheet formulas:

  • Formulas always begin with the equal sign ( = );
  • The equal sign always goes in the cell where you want the answer to go;
  • The multiplication operator is the asterisk ( * );
  • The formula is completed by pressing the Enter key on the keyboard.

Note: You may hear the terms formula and function used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A formula is an expression used to calculate the value of a cell. But a function in Google Sheets is a predefined formula that helps make more complex calculations without a great deal of effort

Using Cell References in Formulas

Multiplication Formulas in Google Spreadsheets

Ted French

Even though entering numbers directly into a formula works — as shown in row two in the example — it is not the best way to create formulas.

The best way — as shown in rows five and six — is to:

  1. Enter the numbers to be multiplied into separate worksheet cells;
  2. Enter the cell references for those cells containing the data into the multiplication formula.

Cell references are a combination of the vertical column letter and the horizontal row number with the column letter always written first — such as A1, D65, or Z987.

Cell Reference Advantages

Cell references are used to identify the location of the data used in a formula. The program reads the cell references and then plugs in the data in those cells into the appropriate place in the formula.

By using cell references 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.

Multiplication Formula Example

As shown in the image above, this example creates a formula in cell C4 that will multiply the data in cell A4 by the data in A5.

The finished formula in cell C4 will be:

= A4 * A5

Entering the Formula

A multiplication formula in Google Sheets

 Ted French

  1. Click on cell C4 to make it the active cell — this is where the results of the formula will be displayed;
  2. Type an equal sign (=) into cell C4;
  3. Click on cell A4 with the mouse pointer to enter that cell reference into the formula;
  4. Type an asterisk symbol) after A4;
  5. Click on cell A5 with the mouse pointer to enter that cell reference;
  6. Press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the formula;
  7. The answer 200 should be present in cell C4;
  8. Even though the answer is displayed in cell C4, clicking on that cell will show the actual formula = A4 * A5 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 A4 from 20 to 5 and press the Enter key on the keyboard.

The answer in cell C4 should automatically update to 50 to reflect the change in data in cell A4.

Changing the Formula

If it becomes necessary to correct or change a formula, two of the best options are:

  • Double click on the formula in the worksheet to place Google Spreadsheets in Edit mode and then make changes to the formula — works best for minor changes.
  • Click once on the cell containing the formula and rewrite the entire formula — best for major changes.