Using Tally Marks for Counting

Using Tally Marks for Counting provides students with a new way of counting numbers. Students will learn about tally marks and how to use them correctly. There are several ways that people in different countries use tally marks. There isn’t just one right way. To illustrate this, students will create their own method to use tallies to count to five.

The lesson contains a lot of information about tally marks, and it includes plenty of examples. The “Options for Lesson” section provides some alternatives or additional ideas for teaching this concept. For instance, you may like to take your class outside or around the school and count specific objects they see with tally marks. Students will enjoy learning about this ancient counting strategy.

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Using Tally Marks for Counting is a great lesson for 1st and 2nd grade students. They will learn about this simple strategy for keeping track of numbers. Up to this point, they have likely been using their fingers or other objects to count. This lesson will teach them how to start using tally marks to count, keep track of scores, and so on.

What Using Tally Marks for Counting includes

There are several pages of content that explain the concept of tally marks. Students will initially discover that there are many ways to count, such as fingers and calculators. Then they will learn that tally marks are a form of numerals for counting. They will also discover that people have been using tally sticks for over 30,000 years.

Students will explore the ways that different cultures have used tally marks. North America, Zimbabwe, most countries in Europe, and other countries use them one way. However, other countries like France and Spain use them differently. There are figures in the lesson to illustrate these differences. By the end of the lesson, your students will know how to use tally marks correctly.


Students will enjoy this content of an activity. First, students will divide into pairs. There is a list of 12 numbers at the top of the worksheet. Using toothpicks as tallies, students will see who can show the numbers the fastest. They can write their scores at the end in the box next to the numbers. Next, there is a list of 10 types of items, such as students, wall posters, or books they see. Students will work together to count how many of that item are in the classroom. For this part, they will draw the tallies on the paper. Finally, they will create their own way to count to five using tally marks.


The practice worksheet provides 15 exercises to test students’ ability to count tally marks. Each exercise has a different number of tallies. Students have to count the tally marks and write the answer on the blank line.


Similar to the practice worksheet, this assignment lists 15 numbers. Students will have to draw tally marks until they equal the given number.

Additional information


1st Grade, 2nd Grade



State Educational Standards

LB.Math.Content.1.NBT.A.1, None for Grade 2

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.