There are many different ways to learn drums. Some people prefer an intellectual approach, to understand the breakdown or math of the part or pattern on the drum. The beats and dividing the beats. This is a western approach that really works for some people.
These type of learners can not learn unless they first understand how the pattern is set up with numbers. This is not my personal preference or way I think, but over the years I have grown to accept the fact that this is the only way certain people can learn. We have different ways, so we need to respect each others process as no two people are the same.
I have respect for the great thinkers in the drum movements and I also believe it is important to have some system of notation as a full time student or professional. That said, I do not believe in learning a rythym or pattern (piece) for the first time from a book or internet. The numbers can not give you a feel, no matter how far you divde or break it down.
The number system and traditional or non traditional music notation for me is good for seeing how something that appeared complicates is actual made up of smple parts and also notation and to refresh my memory. I do like to know where the “one” or first beat of the pattern starts and where the pulse in the pattern is.
Drums were traditional taught by a vocal system (singing or speaking) and by demonstration in West Africa. Each tone you can make on any type of hand drum be it congas, djembe, dumbec or whatever can be thought of and used as a spoken or sung sylable.
Try repeating back a a new rhythm someone shows you by first saying or singing it. If you stumble verbaly, wait until you can repeat it back as a song or spoken word set perfectly before you try playing it. For many of us this by steps the part of the thinking process and replaces it more with the feeling process, thus making it easier for us “feelers” (those who learn by feeling and hearing and then playing back) to learn.
If you can say it, you can play it!