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How to Teach Tally Marks to Children

Updated on November 11, 2016
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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 5 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.

Lesson Plan for Teaching Tally Marks to Kids

1. Place a group of 3 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 4 objects.

6. Set out a third group of 2 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 5 fingers. Show the child that the 5th tally mark is usually slanted across the other 4. Allow the child to practice drawing sets of 5 tally marks themselves. The worksheets below will help reinforce this skill.

Tally Marks Worsheet
Tally Marks Worsheet

Tally Mark Worksheet

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 Tally Marks Practice

Enchanted Learning

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

Tally Worksheets

Tally Marks on the Farm Worksheet

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

Tally Fruit Worksheet

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

Extended Ideas

1. If the child can count by 5s, expand on the lesson by showing them that you can quickly count groups of tally marks by counting by 5s.

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.

Tally Marks Videos - from YouTube

Watch the videos on YouTube about teaching tally marks. Chock-full of good ideas.

Tally Marks Strategy


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      anonymous 5 years ago

      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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      anonymous 4 years ago

      interested idea...

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Good one this is cool

      Woecmy kids learn them last year

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      Jamesvictorial 3 years ago

      Very interesting Tally training from this post!

    • profile image

      Jamesvictorial 3 years ago

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

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