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Polygraph is a partnered guessing game, designed to foster the pleasure and power of words, and develop informal language into formal vocabulary. Each round, players are matched into pairs, and assigned ‘Picker’ and ‘Guesser’ roles. The Picker selects a card; the Guesser asks yes/no questions for the Picker to answer in order to narrow the field of cards down to one.


How It Works

Polygraph practice round. 16 tiles of uniquely different students. Screenshot.


Each student plays a practice round against the computer to learn how the game works.

Image of polygraph from student point of view partner asking a yes/no question about the graphs of 16 unique quadratic functions. Screenshot.


Next, students are paired with a classmate to play Polygraph with the activity’s actual cards.

Interstitial question screen, two cards are shown with a prompt that asks how you might differentiate between the two. 16 tiles of uniquely differnt students. Screenshot.


Between rounds, students answer questions that focus their attention on vocabulary and strategy.

The Student Experience

Polygraph screen of an activity, where the game's 'Start Playing' button is. Screenshot.

Students will be able to play by joining an activity containing a Polygraph. They’ll be able to enter the game from a Polygraph screen in the activity.

Image of polygraph from student point of view partner asking a yes/no question about the graphs of 16 unique polygons. Screenshot.

Students start off with a practice round against the computer, and then get paired with each other. Between games, students answer questions that focus their attention on vocabulary and strategy.

Successfully completed Polygraph game modal. The modal shows the Picker's card, with a 'Nice work!' message. Screenshot.

Students will continue getting randomly re-paired after each completed round, until you move the lesson forward.

Before students start, make sure they understand the premise of the game. We do not recommend playing the sample round with the class, as it is intended for students to try out individually. You could easily, however, play a low-tech version—show the array, pick your card, have students ask questions aloud, respond, et cetera.


Trying Out Polygraph With a Partner

The easiest way to test out Polygraph is to find a friend to play with you. Create a class code, give your friend the class code, and each of you can enter that at student.desmos.com. Your friend may be in the same room, down the hall, or halfway around the world—so long as the two of you are playing at the same time.

Trying Out Polygraph on Your Own

If you want to play on your own, you’ll need two browser tabs, and you’ll need to play the roles of two different students. After you create a class code as a teacher, go to student.desmos.com in each tab and enter the class code. Be sure to sign out on each tab so you don’t appear to be the same person in both tabs. Then just toggle between the two tabs to play both sides of the game.


The Teacher Experience

Close up of a screen containing a Polygraph in Teacher Dashboard. Screenshot.

You’ll be able to watch your students’ matches by clicking into the Polygraph screen from the activity’s Teacher Dashboard.

Close up of the 'Waiting for a partner' section on the Polygraph dashboard. Screenshot.

Check how many students are waiting for partners using the counter at the top of the page.

Interstitial question screen, from the teacher perspective. The prompt asks how students might differentiate between two cards, and student responses are filled in below. Screenshot.

Click into an interstitial question to view the responses students have written.

Expanded view of the game history between two paired students. From the array of 16 cards, all but the correct card are crossed out. The students' chat history of questions is visible. Screenshot.

Click on a pair’s game to view the entire round’s history.

We recommend pacing students to the Polygraph screen in the activity. This will prevent students from moving ahead too quickly, and allow students to play multiple rounds.


Finishing a Game of Polygraph

There are a couple of ways you can wrap up a game of Polygraph in your activity. You can end it by playing a round against the class. Invite discussion of the ideas and strategies behind the questions your students ask.

As an alternative, you can use the Teacher Dashboard to identify some interesting questions that students asked as they played. Bring these questions to the class’s attention, or showcase student thinking by highlighting student responses to the reflection questions between rounds. These might include use of vocabulary you want to introduce or examples of students noticing things about the suspects that most did not.

Once again, we recommend pacing students past the Polygraph screen once you’ve chosen to continue with the remainder of the activity.

Close-up of the round history under the 'All games' header from the Polygraph dashboard. Screenshot.

Learn more about including a Polygraph in a custom built activity.

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