How to Use the MDETERM Function in Google Sheets


Google Sheets is a powerful tool that offers various functions to perform complex calculations and analysis. One such function is MDETERM, which is particularly useful for handling matrices and solving linear equations. In this article, we will explore what the MDETERM function is, when to use it, its syntax, provide examples, and offer a step-by-step guide for using it effectively.

When to Use the MDETERM Function

The MDETERM function in Google Sheets comes into play when you’re dealing with matrices. A matrix is a mathematical structure that contains numbers arranged in rows and columns. This function allows you to find the determinant of a square matrix. The determinant is a crucial value in linear algebra and has various applications in fields like physics, engineering, and computer science.

How to insert the MDETERM formula in Google Sheets

  • Type “=MDETERM” or go to “Insert” → “Function” → “Array” → “MDETERM”.
How To Insert The Mdeterm Formula In Google Sheets
How To Insert The Mdeterm Formula In Google Sheets



  • square_matrix – An array or range with an equal number of rows and columns representing a matrix whose determinant will be calculated.


Let’s break down how to use the MDETERM function in Google Sheets:

Step1: Open Your Google Sheet: Begin by opening the Google Sheet containing the matrix you want to work with.

Open Your Google Sheet
Open Your Google Sheet

Step 2: Select the Cells and Insert the Function: Click and drag to select the range of cells that represent your matrix. Remember, it must be a square matrix, meaning it has an equal number of rows and columns.Click on the cell where you want the determinant to appear. Then, type =MDETERM(.

Select The Cells And Insert The Function
Select The Cells And Insert The Function

Step 3: Press Enter: Hit the Enter key to apply the function

Hit The Enter Key To Apply The Function
Hit The Enter Key To Apply The Function

Tips for Optimization

The MDETERM function in Google Sheets is a powerful tool for calculating determinants of matrices. However, to make the most of it and ensure efficient use, consider the following tips:

Use Properly Sized Matrices
  • Ensure that the matrix you’re working with is square, meaning it has an equal number of rows and columns. MDETERM only works with square matrices.
Double-Check Matrix Values
  • Verify that the values within the matrix are accurate. Small errors in input can lead to incorrect determinants.
Organize Data Neatly
  • Keep your matrices well-organized within your spreadsheet. Use clear labels and ensure there are no extraneous characters or data in the matrix cells.
Leverage Named Ranges
  • Assigning a name to your matrix range can make formulas more readable and reduce the likelihood of errors.
Avoid Circular References
  • Be cautious about creating circular references with the MDETERM function. It can lead to incorrect results or errors in your calculations.
Combine with Other Functions
  • MDETERM is often used in conjunction with other functions like MINVERSE (to find the inverse of a matrix) or MMULT (to multiply matrices). Understanding how these functions work together can enhance your capabilities.
Consider Alternative Methods
  • For very large matrices, MDETERM may not be the most efficient option due to computational limitations. In such cases, consider using alternative methods or breaking down the matrix into smaller parts.
Handle Errors Gracefully
  • Implement error-checking mechanisms to catch and handle any potential errors in your matrix calculations. This ensures that your spreadsheet remains reliable.
Document Your Formulas
  • Include comments or cell notes to explain the purpose of your MDETERM formulas. This helps others (or even yourself in the future) understand the logic behind your calculations.
Optimize for Speed
  • If you’re working with very large datasets, consider ways to optimize your spreadsheet’s performance. This may include reducing the number of calculations or using more efficient techniques.
Test with Small Data Sets
  • When working with a new set of data or complex formulas, start by testing with smaller, simpler matrices. This allows you to verify that your approach is correct before scaling up.
Stay Updated with Google Sheets Features
  • Google Sheets occasionally introduces new functions or updates existing ones. Staying informed about these changes can help you take advantage of improved functionalities.
Backup Your Data
  • Regularly back up your spreadsheet, especially when working with complex calculations. This ensures you have a safe copy in case of accidental deletions or errors.
Seek Help from Communities
  • If you encounter challenges, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from online communities or forums dedicated to Google Sheets. Others may offer insights or solutions you hadn’t considered.

Real-World Application

Financial Modeling:
  • Calculating determinants aids in portfolio optimization, risk assessment, and asset allocation strategies.
  • Used in option pricing models like Black-Scholes for valuing financial derivatives.
Engineering and Physics:
  • Solving systems of linear equations in structural engineering for analyzing forces in bridges, buildings, and other structures.
  • Used in physics for solving problems related to mechanical systems and electrical circuits.
Graphics and Animation:
  • In computer graphics, determinants play a role in transformations, such as scaling, rotation, and skewing of images.
Machine Learning and Data Science:
  • MDETERM is utilized in algorithms for feature selection and dimensionality reduction, particularly in cases where multicollinearity is a concern.
Quantitative Analysis in Research:
  • Applied in social sciences and economics for modeling relationships between variables in regression analysis.
Genetics and Biology:
  • Determinants find application in genetic studies for analyzing genetic markers and studying inheritance patterns.
Image Processing:
  • Used in techniques like edge detection and pattern recognition, which are fundamental in image processing and computer vision.
Robotics and Control Systems:
  • Determines stability and controllability of robotic systems, critical in automation and robotics industries.
Environmental Modeling:
  • In ecology, it can be used to model population dynamics and interactions between species in ecosystems.
Optimization Problems:
  • In operations research and logistics, determinants are used in linear programming and optimization problems.
Cryptography and Information Security:
  • Plays a role in cryptographic algorithms, specifically in encryption and decryption processes.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS):
  • Used to analyze spatial data, calculate areas, and determine relationships between geographic features.
Medical Imaging:
  • In medical imaging, determinants are used in image reconstruction techniques like computed tomography (CT) scans.
Game Theory:
  • Applied in strategic decision-making, where players need to anticipate each other’s moves and determine optimal strategies.
Economics and Econometrics:
  • Used in econometrics to estimate parameters of economic models and analyze economic data.


The MDETERM function in Google Sheets is a valuable tool for anyone working with matrices and linear algebra. By understanding its syntax and how to apply it step-by-step, you can perform advanced calculations with ease. Whether you’re a student learning about matrices or a professional dealing with complex mathematical models, MDETERM is a function worth exploring.


Q: Can I use the MDETERM function for non-square matrices?
A: No, the MDETERM function is designed specifically for square matrices, meaning they have the same number of rows and columns.
Q: What are some practical applications of the determinant in real-world scenarios?
A: Determinants are used in various fields. For example, in physics, they play a crucial role in solving problems related to vectors and transformations. In computer science, determinants are used in areas like graphics processing and machine learning algorithms.
Q: Are there any limitations to the size of matrices that MDETERM can handle?
A: Yes, Google Sheets has limitations on the size of matrices it can handle. Extremely large matrices may result in computational errors.
Q: Can I use variables in the matrix cells instead of numbers?
A: Yes, you can use variables in the matrix cells, and MDETERM will perform calculations accordingly. Just ensure that the variables you use are defined in your spreadsheet.
Avatar Of Deepak Vishwakarma
Deepak Vishwakarma


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