I find this week's topic of 3D incredibly confusing. Some of it is the barrage of new terminology that has led to many Inception-style google searches. The textbook suffers from flaws that better explained here, but in general, the way it tries to introduce concepts/terms (sometimes too much) while trying to maintain a cohesive code project results in a lot of confusion, further made worse by the differences that XNA 3.1 and 4.0.
The tutorials on the website were a bit better, but also suffers from terminology barrage without thorough explanation. I had to look up "T&L", "HLSL", "Gg", "GLSL", "GPU ASM" (which I suspected was GPU assembly language, but wasn't sure), "shader" (as a general concept), "effect", and a couple of other terms just in Tutorial 2. I haven't gone through 3 and 4 yet.
I'm also unsure why or how much of 3D math is expected to be learned this week or what parts of that Direct3D graphics pipeline graphic we're supposed to understand or why it's important to learn the differences between XNA 3.1 and 4.0 if all I've used so far is 4.0.
I don't have as much time to focus on this workshop as I'd like, but I still think that in general, there's either too much material being presented for the time frame or I'm the wrong audience for this workshop. Is anyone else in the same boat?
I will admit I have a bit of the same feeling. Not sure what 3-D math I should focus on. I have taken Calc 1 - 3, Diffy Q but no Linear Algebra but it was all a long time ago. So some of the Math is easy some I have to brush the cob webs off and some I just have to plain relearn. I have a feeling that if you know it exists, you know what it should look like, and have an Idea of the what it is called, then when you hit a brick wall you will have that Eureka moment and go "That is what I needed the math for". Then you will know where to go to figure the answer out, that is when this material will stick with you. So don't stop, just get what you can now, and do the next week. I'm sure you will get all the concept you are vague on now in following tutorials. It will be like my Calc 3 very iterative, meaning every progressing step you take will use the stuff you just learned so by the time you are at week 16 you will have plenty of practice under your belt.
I was having some of the same problems digesting the material. I went and picked up the 3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development book, and started reading through it at the same time. It's really helped to clear most of it up for me.
As far as math goes, other threads in this forum already discuss the specific knowledges needed and possible alternative sources for more in depth knowledge. Basically is about understanding matrix and vertex operations, representation of scale, orientation and position, some linear algebra, trigonometry and geometry.
These knowledges are not specific for this workshop, almost every 3d game developer needs to know about them.
As for some of the concepts you mentioned, the book assumes you have some basic knowledge of the graphics pipeline, IE: what is a shader, what is a vertex, what is a pixel/fragment, what is a buffer...
If you don't understand the basics of these concepts, the links posted towards ExtremeTech do provide a good resource to know the basics and they are also necessary for any 3d game developer.