The Homework Machine Chapter 2

Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam were the last people anyone would expect to be friends. Brenton was brilliant, but didn't have many friends. Sam was known as a troublemaker. Judy was considered the teacher's pet, while Kelsey didn't put much effort into anything. The only thing they had in common was the table where they sat in school. Because their last names all started with D, their teacher had them sit together; everyone called them the "D Squad."

So why were the D Squad hanging out together every day after school by October?

Read Judy's section on p. 25-26.

Brenton insists his machine is real. And that afternoon, he takes the rest of D Squad to his house to show them. Brenton scans in their worksheet with questions about the solar system—and a few minutes later, a completed worksheet (in Brenton's handwriting) comes out the printer!

The rest of D Squad are amazed, and pretty soon, the homework machine (which they name Belch) is doing their homework, too! Can you imagine all the things you could do if you didn’t have to spend time on homework? Is there anything bad that could happen if a machine did your homework for you? Find out what happens to D Squad in The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the homework machine. Why would you want (or not want) a homework machine?
  2. Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam are very different characters. Which one was your favorite?
  3. Which character is most like you? Which one is most different?
  4. Did you think Miss Rasmussen would figure out the kids were cheating earlier? Why did it take her so long to figure out something wasn't right?
  5. At the end of the book, Sam says about Brenton: "Brenton just does his own thing. He's one of these guys who is so uncool that he's cool. You know what I mean? You reach a point where you cross the line into coolness." Do you agree? What makes someone cool?
  6. Why does Brenton leak the story about the homework machine? Would you have done the same thing? Why or why not?
  7. On several occasions, the kids in D Squad get the other kids in their school (and around the country) to do something special on a certain day--like wearing red socks, or wearing clothes inside out. If you could make everyone in your school do something for one day, what would it be?
  8. The kids in D Squad have different ideas about the war. Whose opinion do you agree with?
  9. Judy says, "In some situations, you can't tell the difference between right and wrong so easily. Like driving faster than the speed limit is wrong, but if you're rushing to the hospital so that a baby can be born, then speeding is okay." What are some times when you had a hard time deciding if something was right or wrong?
  10. In this story, the homework machine was named Belch. What would you have named the homework machine?

If you liked this book, try

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Did Fleming Rescue Churchill?: A Research Puzzle by James Cross Giblin
  • Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • A Book of Coupons by Susie Morgenstern

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.

The Homework Machine

By Dan Gutman

INTRODUCTION:  (pgs 1-2)

1.  What is the setting of this novel?



2.  What is the format of this novel? 

3.  Define testimony:

4.  Define dialect: 

Character Traits ~ Beginning of novel


Character Traits

(3 per character)

Judy Douglas

Brenton Damagatchi

Kelsey Donnelly

Sam Dawkins

Miss Rasmussen

CHAPTER 1  --  September:    (pgs 3-24)

1.     What is special about this school?

2.     What is the only characteristic that Brenton, Judy, Kelsey, and Sam seem to have in common at the beginning of the school year? (No POQ)

3.     Why does Brenton tell Sam about the homework machine?

CHAPTER 2 – October:  (pgs 25-45)

4.     Why didn’t Judy tell Miss Rasmussen about the homework machine?

5.     Why did Brenton reluctantly show the D Squad the homework machine?

6.     Why is Brenton’s mom happy to have the D Squad meeting at her house?

7.     What particular part of Brenton’s room décor bothered Sam?  Why?

8.     What is Brenton’s father’s occupation?

9.     Why weren’t Judy, Sam and Kelsey impressed with the homework machine at first? (No POQ)

10.                        Why didn’t Miss Rasmussen test her students?

11.                        Why did Brenton create the homework machine if he is so smart?

13.   What special project did Miss Rasmussen do with her class?

14.  What did Brenton’s project show us about his character?

15.  What did Sam’s reaction to the project show us about his character?

16.  What did Judy’s reaction to the project show us about her character?


17.  What did Kelsey’s project and her reaction to it, show us about her


18.  Who do you believe R. Milner is?     


CHAPTER 3 – November:  (pgs 47-60 )

19.  What happened between Judy and Sam’s father when he visited school?

20. What happened to Judy that made her stop making fun of Kelsey’s pink hair?

21.  Infer: What does Kelsey’s pink hair possibly show the reader about her home life?

22.  How does Snik plan to convince Brenton to allow them to use the machine?

23How does Brenton spark Snik’s interest in chess?

24.  Why did Brenton change his email address?

25.  Why didn’t Brenton tell his parents about his concerns?

26.  Personal opinion: What do you think Brenton should have done after he was contacted by Milner?   Explain. (No POQ)

CHAPTER 4 – December:  (pgs 61-76)

27.  “I never thought Belch was such a big deal, the way the others did.  It was just a tool to make a job easier, like a hammer or screwdriver.  It never interested me much.”

This quote is an example of what type of figurative language?  (No POQ)

28. Why did Milner contact Kelsey with an instant message?

29.  To what did Judy compare the homework machine?

30.  What type of figurative language was the above comparison?  (No POQ)

31.  Predict: What is “all that stuff” that happened with Snik’s dad? 

CHAPTER 5 – January:  (pgs 77-88)

32.   What happens to Sam’s dad?

33.  Why was Kelsey so upset by this news?

34.  What’s the meaning of “grim” in the following quote, “He was more   

        businesslike, grim even.”? (No POQ)

35.  What does Judy compare the homework machine to now? (No POQ)

36.  How and why has Judy’s comparison changed? (2 part answer)


37.  What did Ronnie Teotwawki find out when he followed the D Squad?

38.  Why are the D Squad’s old friendships falling apart?

39.  What lie does both Judy and Kelsey end up telling in separate situations?

40. What reaction did Judy have to her family's discussion at the dinner table? 
                   Using the information you know about Judy, explain why she had                   
                    this reaction. (NO POQ)

41.  Who do you think made the tip call to the police? (NO POQ)

CHAPTER 6 – February:  (pgs 89-102)


Beginning of novel

Current relationship

Judy Douglas

& Kelsey Donnelly

Brenton Damagatchi

& Sam Dawkins


CHAPTER 7 – March:  (pgs 103-110)

42.  Why does Snik feel so good about losing at chess?

43.  Why does Belch go to Snik’s house?

44. Write your own newspaper headline.  Pretend you are a student at Grand Canyon School, and you have heard that there is a homework machine.  In the space below, write 4-6 sentences sharing your thoughts. Include a clever headline.  

CHAPTER 8 – April:  (pgs 111-123)           

45. What were the results of the test for each of the following: (No POQ)

 Kelsey: _______________Brenton:____________Sam:_____________Judy:___________

46.  What scary event happens to Judy?

47.  Why does Kelsey call a meeting for the D Squad when she is the one who

          hates the meetings?

48.  Summarize:  What happened at the meeting Kelsey called?  (3 or 4 sentences only!)

49.  Is Snik the only member of the D Squad impacted by the death of his dad? Support your answer in 3-5 sentences.

CHAPTER 9 – May:  (pgs 125-132)

50.  Why did the D Squad leave Sam’s bedroom to make their plans?

51.  What is the D Squad’s plan for destruction?

52.  Why do you believe this plan will or will not work?

CHAPTER 10 – Summer:  (pgs 133-146)

53.  How was Belch discovered? (No POQ)

54.  Why did Kelsey try to take the blame for the situation? (No POQ)

55.  What was the D Squad’s punishment? (No POQ)

56.  Who is Milner? (No POQ)

57.  Why was Judy disgusted with Milner’s offer? (No POQ)

58.  What is Brenton’s business decision? (No POQ)


Beginning of novel

End of novel

Judy Douglas

Brenton Damagatchi

Kelsey Donnelly

Sam Dawkins


Internal Conflict

 a mental or emotional struggle that occurs within a character

External Conflict

a struggle that occurs between a character and outside forces

Judy Douglas

Brenton Damagatchi

Kelsey Donnelly

Sam Dawkins

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