Math Lesson Plan: Hugs and Tallies

A memorable way for remembering how to make tally marks that equal 5.  Four students stand close together in a row, and a fifth student faces them with outstretched arms and gives them a group hug by touching the waists of the two outside people.  Very fun.  Students love squishing together to get a hug and everyone wants a turn to be “tallies”.


  1. Teach students that 4 tally marks and a line across equals 5. It’s a way of regrouping and making it easier to count larger numbers.


  1. 5 volunteer students (one has to be willing to hug the other 4)  **Ask for 5 friends for the first presentation.
  2. math journals, pencils, erasers for each student


  1. Have the volunteers stand at the front of the classroom.
  2. Tell classmates that these students are no longer students, they are tallies.  Each one is a tally.  A tally represent one of something.
  3. Have one student step forward, saying “One tally”.  (I whisper in their ear what to say and do, then step out of the way.)  Have another step forward, hands at their sides, tall and straight, standing right beside the first one.  “Two tallies.”  Third one comes and stands side by side.  “Three tallies.”  Fourth one comes to stand with the group.  “Four tallies.”
  4. Tell the class that the fifth tally is different.  It holds all five of them together.  Have the fifth student come up and stand facing the four tallies, then spread their arms and hug around the waist of the first tally with their left hand and around the waist of the fourth tally with their right hand.  Tell the class that these tallies represent 5 of something.  When we count things, we sometimes use tally marks.
  5. Thank the students and send them back to their seats.  (**I always have to let everyone have a turn being the “tallies”.)  Then, go to the blackboard and show them how the tally will look when they write it.    (4 sticks with a line across the middle of them…that’s the “hug” or what makes the group “5”)
  6. Have students write this in their math journals:

Tally marks


This represents 5 of something.

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