Read Tally Charts

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SWBAT analyze and compare data shown in a tally chart.

Big Idea

Tally Ho! In this lesson students will begin to read and understand tally marks.

Activating Strategy

10 minutes

I begin this lesson by reading the book “Tally O’Mallley” by Stuart Murphy and Cynthia Jabar.  I like to use this book because it really brings the concept of tally marks to a real life application.  Plus the kids love the humorous illustrations!

I explain that tallying is a quick way to show how many. It is also helpful when recording the results of a survey or sorting several different types of things into groups. Tallies are abstract representations of numbers, and so students are getting the chance to reason abstractly (MP2) by converting numbers into tally marks. 

Some students may forget to count the diagonal line in a graph of 5 tally marks.  I make sure they understand that tally marks are organized in groups of 5. A group of 5 is made by drawing four vertical lines, and then a fifth line is drawn through the first four. I write tally marks for the numbers 1 to 10 on the board.  I then demonstrate how to count by fives and then count on single tally marks.

After demonstrating how to count using tally marks, I ask the students:

  • What number is shown with 3 marks? (3)
  • What number is shown with 4 marks that have another mark slashed across the group? (5)
  • How do you count a group of slashed tally marks and another 2 marks?  (The slashed group is 5, so I count on 2 from 5 to get 7.)

If children need additional experiences reading tally marks, you might provide them with the numbers 1 to 20 represented in tallies. Have them write each number.

Explain that in today’s lesson children will read charts that use tallies to show numbers.

Teaching Strategies

15 minutes

I direct students' attention to the first slide on the Read Tally Marks.pptx.  (For those struggling students, I give them counters or two different size paperclips to help with a concrete model of the crayons we are sorting on the slide.)  Read the following problem aloud:

Jane is sorting her crayons. How can she sort the crayons into two groups?

  • How are the crayons different? They are two different colors and two different sizes.
  • How can you use counters to sort the crayons?: (I can use a red or yellow counter for each crayon and sort them.)

If children have difficulty representing the longer and shorter crayons with counters, you might suggest that they use large and small paper clips to show the crayons in two sizes.

  • How could you use a tally chart to record information about the crayons? (I can make a mark in the chart to show each crayon in a group.)

Discuss a different way to sort the crayons.

  • How many different ways can the crayons be sorted? What are the ways?  (two different ways; they can be sorted by color and size.)

I then have a student come up to the board and tell the class how they would sort the crayons, and then have them draw tally marks to show how many of each.

Then looking at the second slide, I direct the discussion:

  • What story is shown by the information in this tally chart? (Some children were asked to choose whether they liked chicken or pizza better, and more children chose pizza.)
  • What does each tally mark in the chart show? (It shows one child’s choice of chicken or pizza.)
  • How can you find the number of tally marks for the children who chose pizza?  (I know that a group of tally marks with a slash is 5. I count on 3 from 5 to get 8.)
  • How many children in all were asked to choose between chicken and pizza? How do you know? (11 children; 3 + 8 = 11)

Independent Practice

30 minutes

Before turning them loose for their independent practice, I display the slide that has the same graph as the first problem on their worksheet.  We review how to write tally marks again.

As the students begin their independent practice using Read Tally Charts_worksheet.docx, I remind them to count the slashed group of tally marks as five and single marks as one.

For struggling students, review how to count tally marks. Make sure children understand that they can show five with 5 marks, but when we tally, we show five with 4 marks and 1 mark across that group. Have children count aloud from 1 to 5 for the tally marks in a slashed group.


5 minutes

To close out the lesson, I have students use words, numbers, or pictures to show how to group and count tally marks for the number 8 in their math journals.