Globe Toss Icebreaker

For the STAT104 first class of the semester, Lecturer Michael Parzen throws an inflatable globe of the world into the class audience to get the class excited about learning future topics of experimentation, randomness, and estimation.

Parzen begins every class of the semester with the question: “What percentage of the earth’s surface is covered by water?” The class discusses this for a minute then goes to google to confirm. He then asks the class how they could design an experiment to find the answer? After some highly technical answers from people, he throws a globe out at the class and says, "what if we had this to work with." Then a dialogue starts--the students catch it and say water or land. Which hand must land on water? Which finger? He explains that he wants to make it a reproducible experiment so he needs clear instructions. We start and he stops after one throw. Is that enough? How many throws is enough? At the end of the experiment, the class together calculates the percentage of the time the globe landed on water. It gets the class excited, they pay attention, and it is a good introduction to experimentation, randomness and estimation. This exercise works as an excellent icebreaker for large classes and it effectively introduces some of the basic concepts of the course.