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TALLY O'MALLEY Level 2 Books Homepage

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The O'Malleys are driving to the beach for vacation. Eric, Bridget, and little Nell are getting bored in the back seat, so Mom suggests a Tally game. They decide to count cars on the highway. Each of the kids picks a color—silver for Eric, blue for Bridget, and red, as always, for Nell—while Mom sets the timer. Eric trounces the competition and gets to wear the Shamrock medal. And his sister dubs him "Tally O'Malley!" But will he be able to hang on to the title when they tally t-shirt colors while waiting in line for ice cream, or tally train cars? Tally marks are a useful tool for children to keep track as they count, and for data collection. Grouping tally marks also reinforces counting by fives. Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar.

ActivitiesView Activities Homepage

Reread the story and have your child or students keep track of the data with their own tally marks. Make a chart with each of the characters' names, the colors they choose, and their tallies. Occasionally, stop to see how the child's tally marks compare with the marks in the book.

Say a number between 10 and 25 and ask your child or students to make tally marks to represent that number.

Pizza Survey: Have the child or students take a survey, asking ask family, friends, and neighbors, "What kind of pizza do you like best?" Then work together to tally the responses. What kind of pizza is most popular? Least popular?

Tally O'Malley PDF Activity Page

ReviewsView Reviews Homepage


Children’s literature is a powerful way to get students excited about mathematics. More or Less, part of the MathStart series, is about a boy who runs a booth at the school picnic guessing people’s ages. As the book progresses, people try to outsmart Eddie, who must guess their age in less than six questions or get dunked in the water tank. Eddie uses several strategies to guess ages and is quite successful until Mr. Shaw, the principal, gets the best of him and finally he is dunked!

When I first read this book, it reminded me of an activity I do with my students: I put a penny under one of twenty cups that are numbered 1 – 20. If the children can determine which cup I placed the penny under in four guesses or less, they all get a treat. This book provided us with a great lead-in to this fun activity. It also helped my students make logical guesses because they are used available information and therefore asked better questions.

The author provides suggestions on how to read the book to get students involved with the story as well as several follow-up activities that reinforce the mathematics concepts of “greater than” and “less than.”

As a resource mathematics teacher of grades 2-5, I found this book to be one that all grade levels enjoyed. I vary the follow-up activities to accommodate various levels.

—Barbara Hosey, Beauvoir Elementary School, Biloxi School District, Biloxi, MS


In this book, part the Mathstart series, the O’Malley family is going on a trip. Each time the three kids begin to squabble, their parents suggest playing a tally game. They tally the colors of cars, T-shirts, and train cars. The youngest child, Nell, always chooses to tally red, her favorite color, and in the end it pays off.

Following the story, the author suggests activities to reinforce the concepts of tallying, collecting data, and grouping by fives. He also lists several related books.

The book might be used in the classroom to provide a context for introducing activities related to data collection and tallying. This book seems most appropriate for use in first grade. The illustrations are clear, and, in the case of the T-shirt tallies, students could actually count and get the same results as the kids in the story. This book would best be part of a teacher resource library that teachers might use once, rather than as part of a classroom library of high-quality children’s literature.

—Susan Cook, Stoner Elementary School, Madison, WI


From the enormously popular and valuable series, "MathStart," this title introduces the concept of making and bundling tally marks to count items, and secondarily, learning to count by fives. The O'Malley family heads out on a summer vacation to the beach and it looks to be a long car trip with three kids and a dog. However, Mom's got a bright idea to count things and suggests the children use tally marks to keep track of cars on the road, T-shirts at lunch, and train cars as the family stops by at the railroad crossing. The competition goes well and works out fairly. Merry, animated pictures, simply drawn and bursting with color convey the restlessness of children locked in the seatbelts for hours. Suggested reinforcement of the tally concept appears at the end of the book.

—Deborah Zink
Used with permission from Children's Literature Comprehensive Database,


Murphy takes on the ancient and deeply gratifying concept of tallying in this Level 2 entry in his MathStart series. You can almost imagine a shepherd counting sheep as they enter the fold for the night, but here it's the O'Malley family making a game out of tallying to help ease the hours demanded by their car trip to the beach. First, they decide upon something to count, then they pick a color. Tally sheets are passed out on which they can make tally marks. The mood in the car instantly improves - especially for the winner, not to mention the parents (total groovesters in Jabar's zippy, flower-power artwork), enjoying the whine-free environment. The kids get both distraction and a dose of learning how to collect numerical data over time, grouping them into bundles of five (giving the fives table a boost), which look, curiously, like sheaths of wheat that shepherd might have seen as he drove the sheep through the fields.

Used with permission from Kirkus Reviews. Copyright © Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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