Bring math outside with this easy lesson to teach tally marks to kids using sticks found in your backyard. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to practice math. My kids love bringing our classroom outdoors for this lesson. You may even find that they start to tally on their own during recess or playtime.
Teach Tally Marks, An Outdoor Math Lesson with Sticks
The child will make a set of tally marks to represent a given number.
The child will make and use tally marks to count by 5 to 100.
Tally: Means to use a mark to record counting. You may use the tally method to count, or to solve addition or word problems.
Materials Needed to Teach Tally Marks with Sticks
Found sticks of similar width.
Directions for Teaching Tally Marks
- Break the sticks into similar lengths. Ours were around 6 inches long. Make at least 100 sticks of the same size. This may sound like a lot, but it took 2 kids less than 10 minutes to collect and break ours. These sticks will be used as tally marks for this activity.
- Use a stone or driveway as your work station. We tried making tally marks on the rocks and grass, but they were harder to see. A flat surface was much easier to make and count on.
- Explain to your child that a tally is a way to mark or record your counting. Today, we are making tally marks using our sticks.
- Demonstrate how to place 1, 2, 3, 4 sticks straight up and the 5th at a diagonal.
- Encourage your child to practice building sets of 5 tally marks.
- When they become familiar with building the sets of 5, then use those sets to count by 5’s to 100 (or however many tally mark sticks you made in step 1). We didn’t quite have enough to make 100 on our first try, so the kids stopped tallying for a minute and gathered more sticks.
- After you reach 100 mix all the tally sticks together. Call out a number and have your child build that number with tally marks. Have them count out loud as they point to their sets to demonstrate an understanding. When the number has been made, place all the sticks back in the pile and call out another number. Example. 18. For the number 18, children would build 5 sets of 5 tally marks each with 4 sticks down and 1 diagonal. Then place an additional 3 sticks next to the set. See image.
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