Monday, October 13, 2014

Fine Motor Tally Marks Activity & Busy Bag Idea for Kids

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Teaching tally marks to kids? You're going to want to try this simple tally marks activity and busy bag idea.

Math is constantly happening at our house. And right now, tally marks, as well as skip counting by obscure numbers, have been hugely popular. Decimals too, but I have yet to find a suitable activity for my math-loving five year old to cover that topic! A challenge any parent of a kid with hypernumeracy can relate to!

Anyway, the tally marks math tray that I recently assembled was a major hit. It ended up spurring more tally marks love in our house. My boys wanted more, more, more.

So I came up with this simple fine motor tally marks activity and busy bag idea to further explore tally marks. We ended up using it in a variety of ways as you will see.

Use this fine motor tally marks activity for teaching tally marks to kids

Tally Marks Activity for Kids

To put this fine motor tally counting activity together, I used:

  • Jumbo craft sticks - They will become the tally sticks. Simply draw tallies on them with a black permanent marker.
  • Wooden clothespins - Label them with numbers from zero to nine. You'll be using these numbered clothespins to clip the correct number onto the tally mark sticks.

I wrote individual numbers on the clothespins, zero through nine. I made two of each for most of the numbers. I did not do two eights or two nines because I wasn't about to draw up to 99 tallies on one craft stick. That would have been a lot of work. But if you're feeling ambitious, go for it!

As for the craft sticks, I drew tally marks for the numbers 10-35, which was all I could do until I ran out of craft sticks. Feel free to do as big or as little as you'd like. 

Tally marks craft sticks for a hands-on tally mark math activity

Then I placed all the finished DIY tally mark sticks and number clothespins into a wood tray like so:

Tally marks activity tray for kids with clothespins and craft sticks

Ideas for Teaching Tally Marks with this Tally Marks Math Activity

One way to play with these tally mark sticks is to organize them in numerical order, like below. J loved doing this both vertically and horizontally. He also organized them by skip counting by fives (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35) and by tens (10, 20, 30).

Tally mark math craft sticks organized in order

The way I intended this activity to be used was to work on fine motor skills by clipping clothespins to the craft stick. Basically, you count the tallies and clip on the corresponding number using the clothespins. So if you counted eleven tallies, then you would clip on two clothespins that have the number one on each to form the number 11. See below.

Closeup of a child's hand while they count tally marks

Closeup of a child clipping wooden clothespins onto a tally mark stick

Closeup of a child clipping wooden clothespins onto a tally mark stick

Closeup of tally marks activity and busy bag idea for kids

We also played a number scavenger hunt. I'd simply call out a number and then J would hunt for the matching craft stick with the correct number of tally marks on it.

Tally Marks Light Table Activity for Kids

Finally, J asked to put these tally sticks on the light table. He would pick a tally mark craft stick and then count out the corresponding number of items. Since it's fall after all, he used acrylic pumpkins and acorns from the dollar store to do his counting with.

Learning about tally marks on the light table

Learning about tally marks on the light table

As you can see above, there are lots of different ways to use the materials from this tally marks activity, whether that's with clothespins or on the light table.

Other Math Tally Marks Activities to Try

Simple Tally Marks Math Tray for Kids

Counting Tally Marks on the Light Table

Learning Tally Marks with Magnetic Tiles

Use this fine motor tally marks activity for teaching tally marks to kids