Tallying it Up

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Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s to generate measured data, or by making repeated measurements of the same object, and show the measurements by making tally marks.

Big Idea

Students will be able to tally counting by fives.

Warm Up

20 minutes

I start this lesson by saying, “How many of you would like a penny?”

After that, I say, “Today you will learn how to tally and how to count by fives using pennies!” 

Then, I invite students to the carpet. I give them all a penny. I ask them to look at your penny carefully. I give them about three minutes to examine their penny.  After that, I ask them, “What do you notice about your penny?” 

Again, I allow students time for as many observations as possible.  If students notice that each penny has two sides, I ask, “Does anyone know what they are called?”  (Heads, tails)

I ask, “Why do you think they are called that?

Basically during this phase I want to build background knowledge about heads and tails, and assess student’s knowledge about tallying. I collect the pennies from students and ask them to move into smaller groups no larger than six.   

My intentions, are to have students display their data using tally marks!


In this lesson we will cover the following Mathematical Practices: 

MP.1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. 

MP.2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively. 

MP.4. Model with mathematics. 

MP.5. Use appropriate tools strategically. 

MP.6. Attend to precision. 

MP.8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.


20 minutes

After the students move into their small groups, I tell them we are going to try a fun experiment.

Each group will be given five pennies, one per child, to shake in their hand. Then each of you will open your hands and gently put the pennies on your desk.  After that each group will count how many times the pennies land heads up and how many times the pennies land tails up. 

I take about five or six minutes to demonstrate how to correctly shake their pennies and how to mark their tally marks on their group record  sheet. WorksheetWorks_Tally_Counting_by_Fives_1.pdf (Make sure a level of understanding is reached before moving forward.)

When I am demonstrating I ask students how do they determine how many tally marks to mark.  I also, ask them to tell me how to correctly count their tally marks.  (Counting by fives)

When a level of understanding is reached, I ask students to pick up their pennies. I set the timer for 40 seconds. I tell students to shake their pennies until the timer buzz.  Then, I tell them to gently place their pennies on their desk.  I ask students to choose one person from the group to mark their tally marks on the tally sheet.

While students are working, I will keep track of the number of heads and the number of tails on the dry erases board that I placed at each group.  Since this is their first time taking tally marks. I want them to check their marks with the marks I placed on the board. I hope that they will use my marks as a guide to assist them in the learning process. 

Making the Connection

10 minutes

After students have reached a level of comfort in this exercise, I call them back to the carpet. I ask several questions to check for understanding, and to help them make the connection between tallying and counting by fives.


Do you think the pennies landed heads up more often or tails up more often?  … How do you know?

Then, I ask students to count to check how many tally marks are in each group? We started counting the tally marks in the heads up column first from each group.  Then we count the tally marks for tails column.  (I used a large tally board to write the tally marks on.)  After we finished writing all of the tally marks, I ask students to think of a way to use skip counting to help us count faster.

Student’s response:

Counting by fives!

I ask student volunteers to write 5, 10, 15, etc. next to each group of five tally marks as you count by fives.  I repeated the same for the tails column.  After that, I ask students, “What do you notice about our chart?”   I allowed them time to observe the chart, and to make connections.

(If some students are not able to notice the connection, I take a few minutes to explain that each complete tally marks represent five, when we to count tally marks we can do it faster by counting by fives.)

I ask students to count by five with me as I write the numbers on a large counting strip.  I begin at the bottom by writing 0 below the 5.  I write the numbers so that each number is about 1 ½ between each number.   I tell students we will use this strip to help us count forward and backwards by fives each morning.  I post this strip on the board, and ask students to return to their seats.


10 minutes

For the closing students are back at their seats and eager to talk about what they have learned.

I ask students who would like to show us how to write 15 using tally marks?  I ask them to demonstrate how to use tally marks to show 15 on the board.  After that, I ask students to count by fives to check their answer.  Then, I ask students to tell how many groups of five tally marks do we have? How many extra tally marks do we have? I repeat with 7, 25, 16, 38, and 41.  I basically wanted to see if students would be able to count the marks that were left over.  This will allow me to adjust future lessons on skip counting with marks left over.