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How to Teach Tally Marks to Children

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A guide to tally marks for kids

A guide to tally marks for kids

Teaching Kindergarteners to Make Tally Marks

Children working at the kindergarten level are taught to count a group of objects using tally marks. The objective is that the child will understand that one mark is equal to one object. Also, children should be shown how to group tally marks into sets of five marks.

Before learning how to make tally marks, a child should have a good grasp of one-to-one correspondence, meaning the child should be able to match one object to another object, such as one dog to one bone.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan for Teaching Tally Marks to Kids

  1. Place a group of three objects in front of the child. Ask the child how many objects are in the group. Have the child count them if necessary.
  2. Tell the child, "I can show this number by making a mark for each object."
  3. Let the child watch you as you draw a mark for each object, counting as you make the tally marks, "One, Two, Three."
  4. When you are finished making the tally marks, tell the child, "this is a tally mark," as you point to one of the marks. Explain that there is one tally mark to represent each object.
  5. Repeat the steps above with a group of four objects.
  6. Set out a third group of two objects; this time, have the child count the objects and draw a tally mark for each object.
  7. When the child has a good grasp of the activity, tell the child that you are going to draw a tally mark for each of their five fingers. Show the child that the fifth tally mark is usually slanted across the other four. Allow the child to practice drawing sets of five tally marks themselves. The worksheets below will help reinforce this skill.

Tally Mark Worksheets

Next, practice, practice, practice! Let the child get plenty of practice counting objects and making the correct number of tally marks to represent the number of objects in the group with these free online worksheets. They help reinforce the concept so the child remembers what they've learned. (Click any thumbnail below to open the free, printable worksheet.)

Free Worksheets from ABC Teach.com: Tally Marks Practice

Tally Marks Worksheet

Tally Marks Worksheet

There's also a wide variety of free worksheets to practice writing and counting tally marks at Enchanted Learning.com.

A first-grade level worksheet where kids keep track of animals on the farm with tally marks.

A first-grade level worksheet where kids keep track of animals on the farm with tally marks.

A second-grade level worksheet where kids tally fruit and then use their tally count to write the number.

A second-grade level worksheet where kids tally fruit and then use their tally count to write the number.

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Extended Ideas

1. If the child can count by fives, expand on the lesson by showing them that you can quickly count groups of tally marks by counting by fives.

2. Also, you can use data collected on a tally sheet to create bar graphs. Have the child practice translating data back and forth between a graph and tally chart to further reinforce the method in which data is recorded on each.

© 2010 hsschulte

Leave Your Questions and Comments Here. - Feedback on Teaching Kids to Make Tally Marks

Marge waters on November 03, 2018:

This was helpful to me to explain to children as well as their parents why we use tally marks

Jamesvictorial on March 29, 2013:

@anonymous: This is very interesting Tally training from this post!

anonymous on March 12, 2012:

interested idea...

anonymous on October 22, 2011:

What a cool idea, this is the first lesson plan I've ever seen for teaching tally marks, they are something used throughout life.

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