How to Create a Tally Chart

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Tally charts make collecting data and counting in real time a simple task. Surveying a group to collect demographic or marketing information is one use for a tally chart. The students may want to know where their families want to go on vacation or they may want to list their favorite foods, for example. Older elementary school students can look up in the U.S. Census Department and learn about their community -- how many people live in their community, for example. Help the students make a tally chart to display their results.


Determine what you are counting. If the students are listing their favorite foods, this might include pizza, pasta, sandwiches, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, ice cream, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and macaroni and cheese. You will want to know the number of students who like each of these favorite foods.

Make a rectangular-shaped data table on your piece of paper, with three headings at the top. Print or copy these tables and distribute them to the class. In the first heading box, write your counting or survey category, such as "Favorite Foods," for example. In the second heading box, write "tally" and in the third heading box, write "total."

Write each possible answer, choice or observation, underneath the counting category heading. If your category heading is "Favorite Foods," list the foods the class has identified as their favorites, such as "pizza," "pasta," "sandwiches," "yogurt," "fruits and vegetables," "ice cream," and “macaroni and cheese,” until you have listed all the choices underneath the heading of column 1. Separate each choice or answer with a horizontal line all the way across the data table.

Start collecting data or counting. Using the favorite foods example, if someone says her favorite foods are pasta, pizza and ice cream, make a tally mark for each food under the "tally" heading. One tally mark is a vertical line. Draw vertical lines for the first four responses for each answer. If a fifth person chooses that food, draw a diagonal line through the four vertical lines. Four vertical lines with one diagonal line running through it represents a set of five responses. This will make totaling your data easier at the end of the survey, since you count by fives.

Write down additional answers, observations or choices, underneath the tally chart, if relevant.

Total up the tally marks for each category answer or choice. Write the total numbers under the "total" heading.

Michelle Brunet has published articles in newspapers and magazines such as "The Coast," "Our Children," "Arts East," "Halifax Magazine" and "Atlantic Books Today." She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from Saint Mary's University and a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University.