My Profile Photo

Sheogorath's Blog


Depending on the time of the day a friend, a colleague, a wise guy. The beauty of the world is its sense of humor to show humans their way by letting them search their own.


Cover image for this blog post

Tally marks around the world

Today I learned that people around the world use very different tally marks but the majority of them represents 5. While in Europe it’s quite common to use the 4 straight lines (||||) and put the firths across, in Brazil, France and Spain it also happens that people instead of putting 4 lines side-by-side, they draw a box with it line by line with a final line crossing it. In East Asian countries people found an even easier way to represent a group of 5. The Chinese character for 5 is made up of 5 strokes “正”. Therefore in China an other East Asian countries people simply write the character and add one stroke for each time they increase the count. Finally in 1898 a man called “Carl Schenck” came up with the so-called “Tukey Tallying”, which is a counting technique where you first make a dot in the 4 corners of the square, then connect those dots for each further number and finally add 2 additional strokes crossing the box, making it 10 instead of 5. Funnily enough, it wasn’t called after Mr. Schenck but after “John Tukey” and this way of counting is mostly used around forestry.

I came across this when I saw a toot on Mastodon about the topic which was inspired by tweet. With some investigation on Wikipedia and the people I know around the globe, it turned out to be a rather interesting topic to learn about.