Tally Chart: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is A Tally Chart?
  • 0:25 Counting In Early…
  • 1:05 Examples
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cory Haley
Explore earlier civilizations as to how and what methods were used to count. Also in this lesson we will learn how to create and interpret data from a tally chart.

What is a Tally Chart?

A tally chart is a table with tally marks to show a valuable data set. A tally chart is one method of collecting data with tally marks. Tally marks are frequencies, occurrences, or total numbers being measured for a specific category in a data set. Tally charts are used throughout the world and are great visual representations of group observations.

Counting in Early Civilizations

Have you wondered how earlier civilizations learned to count? The first method of counting was counting on fingers, which evolved into sign language for communication. For example, holding up two fingers meant the number two. As civilization evolved, so did the number system, which explains the base ten concept (10 fingers, including your thumbs).

Portrait of Early Counting

The use of tally marks, which are part of a tally chart, date to between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago in the form of notched bones known as Ishango Bones from early European and African cultures. Notches were carved into the bone to denote a number with tally marks, which could be considered the first tally chart to show a form of data collection and representation.

Portrait of Ishango Bone
Ishango Bone


The following image is a tally chart focused on how individuals got to school.

Portrait of Tally Chart
Tally Chart

Notice that in the tally chart you see three separate columns. In the first column are the categories that were surveyed. In the second column is the number of frequencies (tally marks). The final column is the number that is represented by the tally marks. In the tally chart you see a horizontal line going across each group of four tally marks. The horizontal line going across the tally marks represents one more to denote the number five. It is an easier way of counting and making the tally chart clear to interpret the data.

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