just try to skip a tutorial if you struggle to hard with something, maybe the next tutorial won't seem so hard.
you could also try starting the MSP tutorials, it takes off from ground zero.
A general understanding of equations is a must. But to be a sucessfull maxer you don't need to understand everything in the tutorials, since you can try out stuff as you go along. If you wanna do complex FFT algorithms and such you'll need to hit the mathbooks, if a basic synth/sampler is what you want just max away.... you'll figure it out as you go along, if not, there's always help to be found in this forum ;o)
Seems to me that it depends what you want out of it. I've been using MaxMSP for a year or so, although my mathematical skills are pretty rudimentary and consequently I don't really understand a lot of the (to me) more complex stuff. In spite of that, I've been able to make patches and use them to produce interesting sounds and music, which as far as I'm concerned is the most important thing.
If making music, rather than become a MaxMSP whiz, is what you're ultimately aiming to do, then (for now at least) I'd stop worrying about getting through all the Max tutorials and have a go at some MSP ones. As Brian says above, you can fill in the gaps in your knowledge as you go along.
I don't have the book here at home to give an accurate quote, but I remember a passage from Richard Feynman's book "You're joking, Mr. Feynman!" in which he described his approach to new puzzles, where he would visualize the information he was confronted with as something familiar, such as an orange, and the facets of the puzzle as an ever-growing number of objects stuck into that orange; pins or cloves or whatever. In this way he had something concrete to think about, and could use his personal, invented comparison to fill in the gaps until he had enough information and experience to fully grasp the task at hand.
When I got my first copy of Max/MSP, I had a definite idea of what I wanted to do, and without reading anything I sat down and did it. I have the advantage of having been programming in various languages since I was a boy, but there is one basic precept that I always use: if I want to perform a logical task with some new programming language, I would bet money on it that the language is going to allow me to do so. I just have to be patient enough to find out how.
Sure: read the tutorials. By all means! But I imagine that whenever something seems obstructively complicated, it is because you don't yet have a personal reason to use that function.
Sorry, I know we've had plenty of posts so far. My experience with the tutorials is, well, make a checklist and make certain you do each one at least eventually. There were quite a few MSP tutorials that I just didn't get (including the FM, shamefully enough) for quite some time. I came back every few months and was able to knock a couple more off until I finally had them all done. You'll get them after time, and after using what you've already learned. Apart of being able to understand the parts you are having difficulty with is using what you do know daily in your own patches. Part of Max is constant refinement and understanding. Just keep at it, you'll come along if you approach it methodically. =)