Empirical Evidence or Intuition? An Activity Involving the Scientific Method

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As the cornerstone of all sciences, the importance of the scientific method cannot be overemphasized during the first week of any science class. This manuscript describes a short activity that can be included during the first laboratory meeting when lab check-in and safety issues are discussed. It requires only pencils, worksheets, three opaque cups, and a small object (walnut half-shells and a dried pea, for example). Students are presented with the Monty Hall game problem (from the "Let's Make a Deal" game show) where the host offers contestants the choice of three doors, behind one is a prize and behind the other two is nothing of value. After the contestant makes a choice, the host shows the contestant what was behind one of the other two doors (that did not have the prize) and asks the contestant if she or he wants to "stay" with his or her original choice or "switch" to the remaining door. Students conduct a series of games trials as they test whether switching or staying will most likely lead to a win, resulting in evidence for the efficacy of one of the strategies. This evidence can either corroborate or disprove students' stated hypotheses—the very process involved in the scientific method.