1. Introductory Statistical Functions


    In addition to formulas, another way to conduct mathematical computations in Excel is through functions. Excel functions apply a mathematical process to a group of cells in a worksheet. For example, the SUM function is used to add the values contained in a range of cells. Functions are more efficient than formulas when you are applying a mathematical process to a group of cells. If you use a formula to add the values in a range of cells, you would have to add each cell location to the formula one at a time. This can be very time-consuming if you have to add the values in a few hundred cell locations. However, when you use a function, you can highlight all the cells that contain values you wish to sum in just one step.

    The components of a function are as follows:


    Functions are a type of formula, therefore they start with an equal sign. The next component is the name of the function. A list of commonly used functions is shown in Table 2.4. After the function name comes the arguments for the function, which are always enclosed in parentheses. The arguments are the cell locations and/or values that will be used in the function. The number and type of arguments vary based on the function being used, although in this section we will only work with a range of cells for the function arguments. Some examples of different functions with their arguments are:

    =SUM(B2:B15) – adds the values in B2 through B15
    =SQRT(A5) – finds the square root of the value in A5
    =COUNTA(A1:A20) – finds the number of cells from A1 through A20 that contain text or a number

    Throughout Section 2.2 we will add a variety of mathematical functions to the Personal Budget workbook. In addition to creating functions, this section also reviews percent of total calculations and the use of absolute references.

    Table 2.4 Commonly Used Functions
    Function Output
    ABS The absolute value of a number
    AVERAGE The average or arithmetic mean for a group of numbers
    COUNT The number of cell locations in a range that contain a numeric value
    COUNTA The number of cell locations in a range that contain text or a numeric value
    MAX The highest numeric value in a group of numbers
    MEDIAN The middle number in a group of numbers (half the numbers in the group are higher than the median and half the numbers in the group are lower than the median)
    MIN The lowest numeric value in a group of numbers
    MODE The number that appears most frequently in a group of numbers
    PRODUCT The result of multiplying all the values in a range of cell locations
    SQRT The positive square root of a number
    SUM The total of all numeric values in a group

    It is important to note that there are several methods for adding a function to a worksheet, and we will explore each of them throughout this section.

    • Typing the function directly into a cell
    • Selecting from the function list
    • Using the Function Library on the ribbon
    • Using the Insert Function button

    The SUM Function

    The SUM function is used when you need to calculate totals for a range of cells or a group of selected cells on a worksheet. With regard to the Budget Detail (from the CH2 Data) worksheet, we will use the SUM function to calculate the totals in row 12, starting with the Monthly Spend total in B12. The following illustrates how a function can be added to a worksheet by typing it into a cell location:

    1. Switch to the Budget Detail worksheet if needed.
    2. Click cell B12.
    3. Type an equal sign =.
    4. Type the function name SUM.
    5. Type an open parenthesis (.
    6. Click cell B3 and drag down to cell B11. This places the range B3:B11 into the function.
    7. Type a closing parenthesis ).
    8. Press the ENTER key. The function calculates the total for the Monthly Spend column, which is $1,427.

    Figure 2.11 shows the appearance of the SUM function added to the Budget Detail worksheet before pressing the ENTER key.

    Figure 2.11 Adding the SUM Function to the Budget Detail Worksheet

    As shown in Figure 2.11, the SUM function was added to cell B12. However, this function is also needed to calculate the totals in the Annual Spend and Last Year Spend columns. The function can be copied and pasted into these cell locations because of relative referencing. Relative referencing serves the same purpose for functions as it does for formulas. To complete the Totals in row 12, we need to copy and paste the SUM function into D12 and E12. Since we will then have totals in D12 and E12, we can paste the percent change formula into F12.

    1. Click cell B12 in the Budget Detail worksheet.
    2. Click the Copy button in the Home tab of the Ribbon.
    3. Highlight cells D12 and E12.
    4. Click the Paste button in the Home tab of the Ribbon. This pastes the SUM function into cells D12 and E12 and calculates the totals for these columns.
    5. Click cell F11.
    6. Click the Copy button in the Home tab of the Ribbon.
    7. Click cell F12, then click the Paste button in the Home tab of the Ribbon.

    Figure 2.12 shows the output of the SUM function that was added to cells B12, D12, and E12. In addition, the percent change formula was copied and pasted into cell F12. Notice that this version of the budget is planning an increase in spending compared to last year.

    Figure 2.12 Results of the SUM Function in the Budget Detail worksheet

    Figure 2.13 SUM Function Adding Two Cell Locations

    The COUNT Function

    Data file: Continue with CH2 Personal Budget.

    The next function that we will add to the Budget Detail worksheet is the COUNT function. The COUNT function is used to determine how many cells in a range contain a numeric entry. The COUNT function will not work for counting text or other non-numeric entries. If you want to count text instead of, or in addition to, numeric entries you use the COUNTA function. For the Budget Detail worksheet, we will use the COUNT function to count the number of items that are planned in the Annual Spend column (Column D). The following explains how the COUNT function is added to the worksheet by selecting from the function list:

    1. Click cell D13.
    2. Type an equal sign =.
    3. Type the letter C (to start spelling the name of the function).
    4. Click the down arrow on the scroll bar of the function list (see Figure 2.14) and find the word COUNT.
      Excel for Mac icon Mac Users can scroll down with touchpad or mouse to find COUNT
    5. Double click the word COUNT from the function list.
      Excel for Mac icon Mac Users should single click the word “COUNT” do not double-click
    6. Highlight the range D3:D11.
    7. You can type a closing parenthesis ) and then press the ENTER key, or simply press the ENTER key and Excel will close the function for you. The function produces an output of 9 since there are 9 items planned on the worksheet.

    Figure 2.14 shows the function list box that appears after completing steps 2 and 3 for the COUNT function. The function list provides an alternative method for adding a function to a worksheet.

    Figure 2.14 Using the Function List to Add the COUNT Function

    Figure 2.15 shows the output of the COUNT function after pressing the ENTER key. The function counts the number of cells in the range D3:D11 that contain a numeric value. The result of 9 indicates that there are 9 categories planned for this budget.