From a teacher's perspective our competition is tough. Passing out a handout of 30 problems that are all in a format of 534x25= is not as stimulating in the students' eyes as playing games such as Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil.
These students have weak immediacy. This means that compared to other students, they are slow to come up with the right answers to basic math problems like 6 x 8, or 35 divided by 7. While other kids have the answer stored in their memory, these kids do not. This causes big problems when they try to work through the more complex problems they encounter in junior high math.
It is amazing the difference in effort you will get from worksheet to worksheet. Granted the amount of effort may vary immensely from year to year depending on the group of students you have.
As a middle-school math teacher, I have seen many students who do understand abstract concepts, and even enjoy learning about things like Pi and the Pythagorean Theorem, but who appear to be unable to do so due to a weak grasp of math fundamentals.