Game – United States of America

Heads Up Seven Up

“So, seven people volunteer to go around and touch other people’s thumbs. And these people whose thumbs are being tapped or touched have their, uh, heads down and eyes closed so that they can’t see who taps their thumb. So basically after, uh, the seven people have tapped someone’s thumb, then they go back to the front of the room and then, um, I don’t know, wow. I think they say something, like…I don’t know, like, “Stand up now”. They say something! So basically anyone who had their thumb tapped stands up and they try to guess which one of the seven people tapped their thumb. And if they, they get one chance to guess it right, and if they guess it right, then they get to replace that person and then the next round, that person who guessed right gets to tap a thumb. I mean basically, if you don’t guess right, then you have to put your head down and thumb up the next round and everything. And actually, at the beginning of the round, you’re supposed to say “heads down, thumbs up” to inform the people that the game is starting, and they need to put their heads down and their thumbs up.”

*Each volunteer is allowed to only tap one thumb

*Prior to having your thumb tapped, your thumb is supposed to be in a “thumbs-up” position, where all of your fingers are clenched except your thumb, which is upright

*After your thumb has been tapped, you bring your thumb down so that it is tucked underneath your other fingers (this way, double-tapping can be avoided)

Heidi first learned how to play this game as a first-grader (about age 6 or 7), and this game typically takes place in elementary schools. As far as she can remember, she has never played it anywhere except at school. Sometimes, students cheat by opening their eyes slightly to see who tapped their thumb; in fact, Heidi says that she has been accused of cheating. In general, she doesn’t really like playing this game.

Elementary school teachers probably like this game because it is generally very quiet, except during the period in which students must guess who tapped their thumb. Students probably like this game because of its mysterious nature—unless your eyes are open, you don’t really know who tapped your thumb. Students must also learn to make use of their other senses: perhaps they heard someone’s athletic pants swishing nearby after they were tapped, alerting them that the person who tapped their thumb is probably wearing athletic pants; once the round is over and the guessing begins, the person who heard the swishing athletic pants will be more inclined to suppose that that person was the one who tapped them. Also, some people might have noticeably warmer or colder fingers, so that if a person’s thumb is tapped by someone with cold hands, he or she might be able to guess their “tapper” based on what they know about the volunteers’ tendencies to have cold or warm hands. True, some students will cheat from time to time, opening their eyes to get a peek at whoever might have tapped their thumb. However, this must be done with extreme care, since the volunteers try to watch for those who might be looking, and call them out on it. If a student is able to catch a glimpse of their “tapper” successfully, he or she knows that when it comes time to guess, he or she can’t choose the person without some hesitation, otherwise the cheating behavior may seem obvious for the rest of the class.

Ultimately, this game teaches students how to use senses other than vision to make observations, and also teaches students deductive skills as they try to guess who tapped their thumb. For those who walk around tapping thumbs, the game teaches them how to be sneaky; the game also implicitly teaches cheaters how to be sneaky and avoid being caught.