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Why does Nick Allen ask Mrs. Granger a question at the end of class on the first day of school? How does she outsmart him?

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The answer to this question can be found at the end of chapter 3. Nick finds Mrs. Granger's class relentless and somewhat tedious, and at the end of the lesson, just before she is about to set the homework, Nick decides to ask "the delaying question" that he is famous for, "also known as the teacher-stopper, or the guaranteed time-waster." He hopes to "sidetrack" Mrs. Granger so that she forgets to set the homework.

Nick decides to ask Mrs. Granger where all the words in her dictionaries come from. He asks whether they "just get copied from other dictionaries." Nick is pleased with his question and considers it the "perfect thought-grenade."

However, Mrs. Granger knows exactly what Nicholas is trying to do, and so, in response, she asks him to do "some research on that subject and give a little oral report to the class." She tells him to have his report ready for their next class together. Thus, Mrs. Granger outsmarts Nick because she gives him extra homework as a punishment for trying to distract her from setting the original homework. Once Nick realizes that he has been outsmarted, he feels "small, very small," and he feels "the tops of his ears glowing red" with embarrassment.

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