“Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!” is an excellent strategy for questioning children during Maths lessons, especially those involving mental calculations. It can also be used as a fun way to test the children’s knowledge of their multiplication tables. It is not just restricted to Maths, however, and can also be used in most curriculum areas.
1) The strategy works well when children are sitting together in a group (e.g. on the carpet in front of you).
2) The teacher should ask the class a question (based on the subject / topic being studied at the time). When the children have an answer, they should indicate this to the teacher by nodding their heads (rather than calling out or putting up their hands).
3) When most of the children have an answer, the teacher should choose one of the children to say their answer. The child can be chosen at random, or you might want to choose specific children for assessment purposes.
4) When the child has stated his / her answer, the teacher should call out, “Thumb Up! Thumbs Down!”. The rest of the class should put their thumbs UP if they think the answer is correct and their thumbs DOWN if they think it is incorrect.
5) If the answer is correct, congratulate the child and quickly fire another question at the class. If it is incorrect, ask another child for their answer (repeat until the correct answer is found), and again ask another question. You could of course, stop after the answer has been given to explain or discuss the question / answer with the children
6) Once the children are used to this questioning technique, you can begin to speed up the process. They will enjoy the faster pace of the questioning, as it requires them to quickly recall facts and information or use mental strategies to work out the answer.
An alternative to this activity was suggested by Marie Willis:
This activity can cover most aspects of maths. Instead of the teacher asking a question and getting children to answer, the teacher makes a statement, e.g. 6 x 5 is 30. The children work it out and give the teacher the thumbs up (if they think the statement is true) or thumbs down (if they think the statement is false).