Reading & Interpreting Tally Charts

Instructor: Jessica Lowe
This lesson explains how to read and interpret tally charts. It provides real-world examples of tally charts and discusses how and why we use them to make life easier.

Understanding Tally Marks and Tally Charts

Tally marks are just straight lines that look like the lowercase letter l. They are used to keep track of something, such as the scores in a game or results from a survey that was taken. Using tally marks is just an easy and fun way to show information. When you see lots of tally marks showing information in a table, you have a tally chart.

Let's look at some examples to learn how to read and interpret tally charts.

Example 1

Let's say you and your friends are making a tally chart to show what your favorite types of candy are. Instead of using numbers, you decide to use tally marks.

tally chart


To read this chart, all you have to do is count how many tally marks there are next to each type of candy.

  • Next to 'Fruit-Flavored Hard Candy,' there are 4 tally marks, so 4 of your friends like this type of candy.
  • Next to 'Chocolate with Caramel Inside,' there are 2 tally marks, so 2 of your friends like this type of candy.
  • Next to 'Butterscotch-Flavored Chews,' there are 3 tally marks, so 3 of your friends like this type of candy.
  • Next to 'None,' there is 1 tally mark, so 1 of your friends doesn't like any of the candies listed.

If you take a look at the tally marks next to Chocolate Bars (the most popular candy), you'll see they look a little different. Tally marks are grouped by 5. Once you get to the fifth tally mark, you must draw that one across the other tally marks like in the picture.

After the fifth tally mark, you need to start a new group.

This is what tally marks that show more than 5 look like:

tally marks 2

Example 2

Your class is playing a math review game, and they want to keep score on the board. There are 3 teams. Take a look at the picture to see the final scores.

tally marks 3


To find out which team won, you would just count the tally marks next to each team. Don't forget the fifth tally mark that is across the other 4 in each group. Which team won? The Lions Team won because they have a score of 10, which is the biggest number.

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