Stage 1 data – tally marks


Students can:

  • record data using tally marks
  • record data in a column graph
  • answer questions about information i n a column graph

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: healthy food choices

Display a number of food items that students could choose as a healthy snack. Items could include apple, banana, pear, yoghurt, cheese stick, salad sandwich, sultanas, fruit kebab, carrot sticks and strawberry smoothie.

Students work in pairs and discuss these food items. Each student tells their partner which food item they would choose as a snack.

Students report back to the class and describe which food item they would choose and why.

  • Ask: Who chose apple as a snack? (4 students)
  • Count the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and make four strokes on the whiteboard as you count.

  • Ask: Who chose strawberry as a snack? (2 students). Count the numbers 1, 2 and make two strokes on the whiteboard as you count.

  • Ask: What if ten children chose a food? How could we show a bigger number using strokes?
    Show how to record using tally marks, by making groups of 5.

  • Record the class information about healthy food choices on a chart using tally marks.

  • Gather other information about the students by asking questions. Record the number of responses on the whiteboard by using tally marks.

example - how many children have 1 sister, 2 sisters, 3 sisters, 1 brother, etc.?

  • How many children have blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, etc.?
  • For large numbers, students can practise skip-counting by fives to count the total number of tally marks.


Activity 2 – constructing a column graph

Display the table below. The table shows the favourite colours of children in one class.

  • View/print (PDF 34.97KB)
  • Have students look at the headings - Colour, Tally, Number (how many altogether?).
  • Read the list of colours with the class.

The tally marks show the number of children who chose each colour. Count the tally marks and write the total in the last column.

  • Ask: What is another way we can show this information? (in a picture graph, in a column graph)

Display this graph.

Say: Look at the words along the bottom. Read them.

  • What are all of these words? (colours)
  • How many squares are coloured red? Why?
  • Why are there numbers up the side of the graph?
  • How many squares should we colour for yellow?
  • Ask a student to colour in the correct number of yellow squares.

Ask different students to help complete the column graph by colouring the correct number squares to match the tally.

  • Once the columns have been correctly coloured, ask the students what this graph is about.
  • What should we call this graph? (Favourite colours). Write the title above the graph.

Activity 3: interpreting a column graph

Say to the class:

A class kept a tally of all the lunches ordered at the canteen in one week.

Each tally mark shows one lunch order. Count the tally marks and write the total number of lunch orders for each day in the last column.

The class then made a graph to show the number of lunches ordered.

Use the information presented in the graph to answer these questions.

  • How many lunches were ordered on Monday? On Tuesday?
  • Which day had the least number of lunch orders?
  • Which day had the most number of lunch orders?
  • How many more lunches were ordered on Wednesday than on Thursday?
  • How many lunches were ordered altogether during the week?

Students think of one other question they could ask about the information in this table. Students share their question with the class.

Activity 3 – healthy food choices

In small groups, ask students to identify what snacks and drinks they have brought to school. Each group collects the information in a table.

Students construct a column graph to represent the information in the table. Some teacher guidance may be necessary.

Ask students questions such as:

  • What was the most popular food choice?
  • What was the least popular food choice?
  • Why is it important to choose a healthy food as a snack?

In pairs, ask students to write two sentences about the information presented in the class graph. Share the sentences in small groups or with the whole class.


Australian curriculum

ACMSP049 Collect, check and classify data

ACMSP050: Create displays of data using lists, table and picture graphs and interpret them

NSW syllabus

MA1-17SP Gathers and organises data, displays data in lists, tables and picture graphs, and interprets the results

Teacher resources

  • Nrich enriching mathematics
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