12 yo: school help


We have turned things around in our house hold 100% and I now like being around our two sons. Things are good except one which I am bound and determined to set straight this school year, but I need help.
My 12 year old has never done well in school. I have always felt that there is something not quite right with him. I have observed him in the classroom and most of the time he seems kind of like he is in a fog. He has always had extreme difficulty with math and since I can not afford a tutor, I spend extra time working with him. The teachers on the other hand tell me that he is capable, most of his very awful grades are do to the fact that he has missing assignments.
This September I let him hang himself the first three weeks of school. He did nothing. Told me repeatedly that things were great at school and his work was done. At the three week mark he brought home an A in band, B in PE, F in math, F in science, B in language ars and a D in social studies. I put him on restriction for a week and a half. Things got crazy at school, their teacher was gone, they had differenct subs, the class was out of control and I noticed that he was being much more diligent about his school work, so I backed off of the restriction.
His grades have come up from F's to D's at the nine week mark and he is thrilled that he brought them up a grade. I am not thrilled. I know he is trying harder because I seem him putting much more time and effort into his work. I feel bad for him because he has dug himself in to such a hole and I guess I have trouble following through with the advice in ending the homework hassle because he seems sincere when he says " mom i am trying to so hard to bring up my grades". I don't know if I should push him harder, punish him, motivate him. I am torn because I have never known how much to expect from him.
At his teachers recommendation he is now having to write his assignments down in a planner before leaving school and the next day he is to hand the assignments to his teacher and get a signature. This way I get direct feedback as to if he is keeping up with his work. His citizenship grades are great. He is no trouble at all. He is friendly and outgoing. He resents my keeping close tabs on his work and he is not happy with grades.
Help, I do not know what to do next.

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