Tax time is coming! Maybe it’s time to let technology help you handle the numbers.

That’s what accountants use spreadsheets for, but you don’t need to understand accounting or finance concepts to get a spreadsheet.

Consider the following math equations.

- Sum: 49 + 51 + 50 = 150
- Average: the average of the above three numbers is 50
- Addition and subtraction: 49 + 51 – 50 = 50

If you understand this math, here’s what it looks like in a spreadsheet:

**How you can use this tip**

- Math functions must start with an equal sign or another arithmetic operator (e.g. +, -).
- Functions need not use only a contiguous range of cells. For instance, =B4 + B6 would add 49 and 50, for a result of 99.
- Functions tend to be the same across different spreadsheet programs.
- Spreadsheets range from the paid, and popular, Microsoft Excel to the free spreadsheet programs included in OpenOffice.org and Lotus Symphony.
- Check online help for other functions you might need. Modern spreadsheets automate much of the mathematical heavy lifting using functions geared towards finance, advanced math and other disciplines.

Want to know about other functions in spreadsheets? Want to set up parts of your tax return in a spreadsheet? Just ask in the comments below – I’ll see what I can do.