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How to Sum Numbers, Cells, or Matrices in Google Sheets

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Addition is one of the four basic operations in mathematics. You can add numbers together, or sum them, using a variety of methods. The easiest method is using the plus sign (+), similar to how you would sum numbers on paper. Alternatively, you can also sum numbers using functions such as the SUM function.

Other than numbers, you can sum cells, and even matrices in Google Sheets. Summing in Google Sheets goes well beyond these, but we will suffice to these for this article.

How to Sum Numbers in Google Sheets

Numbers summed in Sheets.

You can sum plain numbers using the formula bar in Sheets. Google Sheets will calculate the result and show it in the cell that you typed the formula in. As an example, to get you started, let’s sum 29 and 142 in Sheets.

  1. Select a cell where you want to show the result.
  2. Click the formula bar.
  3. Type in an equal sign (=). This will initiate your formula.
  4. Type in the two numbers that you want to sum, with a plus sign (+) in the middle. The formula for this example will be as below:
    =29+142
  5. Press Enter. Google Sheets will display the results in your cell.

You can also sum multiple numbers this way by adding another plus sign (-) and entering the third number, and so forth.

Related: How to Share and Protect Your Google Sheets

How to Sum Cells in Google Sheets

Rather than entering the numbers and having a static result, you could instead refer to the cells that contain these numbers and create your own dynamic formula. This way, the results of your sum operation will change in real-time if you change the cells that it refers to.

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If you’re looking to sum a range of cells, you can still use the plus sign. All you need to do is to refer to cells in the formula, and add a plus sign in between them, and keep going until you’ve included all the cells you want in your formula. However, a pro Google Sheets user would instead use a function to make the process less laborious, a function like SUM.

How to Sum in Google Sheets With the Plus Sign

Summing multiple cells in Sheets.

Suppose you have the monthly income of a part-time worker. This imaginary worker doesn’t spend any of his money, and has also received a hefty reward in May. The goal is to calculate how much the worker has earned in total.

  1. Select the cell where you want Google Sheets to display the result. As before, this will be cell B7 for this example.
  2. Go to the formula bar and enter the formula below:
    =B2+B3+B4+B5+E5

    This formula will sum the monthly incomes (from B2 to B4) with the reward in cell E5.

  3. Press Enter. Google Sheets will now show the total money this worker has earned.

How to Sum Cells Using the SUM Function in Google Sheets

SUM function in Google Sheets.

SUM is one of the basic functions in Google Sheets. You feed a range of cells to SUM, and it sums the values and returns the total in a cell. The SUM function has few variables and is easy to use. Yet, it is an essential function to learn, as you can use it to create sophisticated formulas.

=SUM(value, [value2], ...) 

Other than the first value, the others are optional. You can enter multiple ranges of values in the SUM function like below:

=SUM(A1:A8, B2:B10)

Or a single range like below:

=SUM(A1:A8)

Or single values like below:

=SUM(J7, G12, 14)

Related: Google Sheets Formatting Tips for Creating Professional-Looking Spreadsheets

Let’s put the SUM function to use in the previous example. The goal here is to calculate the total earnings of the worker by summing his monthly income and his special reward. However, this time, we’ll be using the SUM function to make things easier.

  1. Select the cell where you want to show the result. That will be cell B7 for this example.
  2. Go to the formula bar and enter the formula below:
    =SUM(B2:B5, E5)

    This formula will sum the values in cells B2 to B5, and then it will sum the result with cell E5, giving you the total cash earned.

  3. Press Enter. Google Sheets will now tell you how much the worker has earned.

How to Sum Matrices in Google Sheets

Matrices summed in Google Sheets.

A collection of data set in a table is called a matrix. A matrix is considered an array, as it contains an array of numbers. To sum matrices together, they need to be of the same structure; if your first matrix is a 2×2, then the second one should be 2×2 as well. The sum result will also be a 2×2 matrix.

Though the SUM function is strong and mighty, it cannot sum arrays or matrices. To sum matrices, you’ll have to revert to the traditional plus sign (+) and create an array formula.

As an example, we have two matrices (matrix 1 and matrix 2) in a spreadsheet. The goal is to sum the two matrices and display the resultant matrix as matrix 3. Note that the matrix 1 and 2 are both the same size.

  1. Select the first cell of the matrix where you want to show the results. In this example, matrix 3 starts from A10.
  2. In the formula bar, enter the formula below and press Enter:
    =ARRAYFORMULA(A2:C4 + E2:G4)

    This formula takes matrix 1 (A2 to C4) and then sums it with matrix 2 (E2 to G4). The summation is put inside the ArrayFormula function to indicate that it is indeed an array formula. This will let Google Sheets know that it’s dealing with an array, and not single values.

  3. As an alternative, you could also enter the ordinary formula and then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter. This keyboard combo will automatically put the formula inside the ArrayFormula function.
  4. Once you press Enter or Ctrl + Shift + Enter, depending on your formula, Google Sheets will sum the two matrices and display it in matrix 3.


Related: How to Add the Current Time to Google Sheets

Sum Anything and Everything With the Right Formula

You can sum values in Google Sheets using an arsenal of functions, but two of the most popular ones are the plus sign (+) and the SUM formula. The SUM function often makes calculations easier, and can be used to create compound formulas, but it falls short in summing arrays. That’s where you revert to the classic plus sign and create an array formula to sum your arrays.

You now know how to sum numbers, cells, and matrices in Google Sheets, but don’t stop here. There’s still much left to learn!


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