You mention that "one of the things I figured out was to keep practicing a specific set of problems until I understood the question." This is actually how East Asian mathematics education works.
From Leung (2006, p. 43):
The process of learning often starts with gaining competence in the procedure, and then through repeated practice, students gain understanding. Much of the mathematics in the school curriculum may need to be practiced without thorough understanding first. With a set of practicing exercises that vary systematically, repeated practice may become an important "route to understanding" [...].
Note that Western mathematics educators will frown at this. They believe that conceptual understanding should come before procedural skill, and not the other way.
I recommend that you read more about East Asian mathematics education using the keyphrase "repetition with variation."
Leung, F. K. S. (2006). Mathematics education in East Asia and the West: Does culture matter? In F. K. S. Leung, K.-D. Graf, & F. J. Lopez-Real (Eds.), Mathematics education in different cultural traditions---A comparative study of East Asia and the West (Vol. 9, pp. 21-46). Springer. (The 13th ICMI Study)
The traditional Western idea of procedural instruction is sometimes called drill and skill (or drill and kill if you are against it). It's basically repetition.
But the East Asian idea of procedural instruction is called "repetition with variation." The large amount of problems solved provides the skill (procedural knowledge), but the slight differences between problems provides the understanding (conceptual knowledge). The variations allow the learner to distinguish what makes the problems different and what makes them similar.