In this article, we argue the need to use inter-disciplinary paradigms to make sense of a range of findings from a research project. We developed a methodology using iPad diaries to uncover young students’ thinking—mathematical, social and affective—so as to better understand their experiences of mathematics. These students, predominantly from year 3 to year 6, were drawn from economically and socially distinct schools in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. This article builds on previous research, where we outlined the unique methodology that we developed over three iterations to collect student attitudinal comments regarding mathematics. The comments we collected gave significant insights into the experiences of, and possibilities for, the mathematics education of young learners. Here, we use these findings to explore the value of two paradigms to explain student experiences towards mathematics among primary school students from different social backgrounds. In so doing, we develop an explanatory model for the socially differentiated outcomes in students’ responses and then use this explanatory model to analyse student responses from the two most socially disparate schools in our research.