Sometimes it is best to have a math activity that has personal details involved. This gives ownership for the student, and as there will be a variety of different attributes in the class there will be different answers or in some cases the same answer even though there were different starting points.
What follows is from Andrew Jeffrey's Newsletter, but I have used it in the past with items such as; How many days of the week do you enjoy chocolate? How many days of the week do you run for exercise? See if you can find a different starting point.
I have used this with parents and at the end when they have showed me their answer said, "You are a young looking 40 year old with size 5 shoes. It is surprising how long it often takes for the adults to realise how I worked it out.
"It's not every day that my wife gets me with a maths trick, but over dinner she showed me this trick someone had sent her and I was blown away at how clever it is. Depending on the numbers, you might need a calculator, but it's worth it:
1. Write down your shoe size (round up if you're a half!)
2. Multiply by 5
3. Add 50
4. Multiply by 20
5. Add 1014
6. Subtract your year of birth
7. Look at your answer and explain what it means
You are looking at your shoe size followed by your age! One to try with your algebra class!