The MAX function is a computer program that you run from a worksheet cell formula. It determines the maximum value out of a group of values. You run the MAX worksheet function by typing its name in a formula then followed by the information it is suppose to analyze. This function is capable of analyzing thousands of cell values for a maximum value (largest). The MAX worksheet function is most commonly used to look at a row of numbers or a column of numbers on the worksheet.

Whenever you type a formula in a worksheet cell, this is called syntax or grammar. The general MAX function syntax has a format like this when you type it in a worksheet cell:

=MAX(number1,[number2], ...)

Where number1, [number2] ..... are called the function argument list. Remember, you are running a computer program at this point so the program needs information to operate and that is why there is an argument list. When you see an argument list and you see square brackets [ ] around the argument name, this means the argument is optional and you do not have to include it when typing unless you need it. So for the syntax above, you need to include one argument for the MAX function when typing it in a worksheet cell formula in order for it to calculate correctly. How many arguments can be placed in the list is dependent upon the Excel version you are using. What argument values can be used are discussed below. Remember functions expect certain things in their argument lists, if you do not put the correct information in the list they will generate an error when run.

Since the MAX function is a computer program, it runs when you press Enter to enter the formula that contains it. If any of the arguments are wrong, the function will return an error.

When typing the MAX function in a worksheet cell formula, you need to replace the number1... argument list with arguments separating each one with a comma (,). Since the MAX function finds the largest number it expects numbers. Some typical arguments you can use are:

Argument Type | Cell Formula | Example Explanation |

Cell Reference | = MAX( A1, B1 ) | Finds the maximum in the cell values from A1 and B1 |

Range Reference | = MAX( A1:A10 ) | Finds the maximum in the cell values between cells A1 and A10 |

Column Reference | = MAX( C:C ) | Finds the maximum in the cell values from Column C |

Row Reference | = MAX( 1:1 ) | Finds the maximum in the cell values from Row 1 |

Numbers | = MAX( 100, 200, A1 ) | Finds the maximum between 100, 200 and cell A1's value |

Multiple Columns/Rows | = MAX( A1:A10, C1:C10 ) | Finds the maximum in the cell values from A1 to A10 and from C1 to C10 |

Cell and Range Names | = MAX( Sales_2012 ) | Finds the maximum in the range named Sales_2012 * |

* It is possible to name a cell or group of cells on a worksheet and use that name in place of a range reference or cell reference. Consult Excel help on how to name a cell.

The worksheet seen below contains some typical worksheet formulas that run the MAX worksheet function. Pay close attention to the argument list and the syntax used to write the formula.

A | B | C | |

1 | Quantity | = MAX( A1:A4 ) | Returns the maximum value from the range A1 to A4 |

2 | 100 | ||

3 | 200 | ||

4 | 300 |

- The arguments for this function can either be numbers or names, arrays, or range references that contain numbers.
- You can type logical values and text representations of numbers directly into the argument list and they will be counted.
- If an argument is range reference or an array, only numbers the numbers are analyzed. Empty cells, logical values and text are ignored.
- Any arguments that produce error values or text that cannot be translated into numbers can cause errors.
- If you want to include logical values and text representations of numbers in a reference as part of the calculation, try using the MAXA function.

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