Does the materiality of a three-dimensional model have an effect on how this model operates in an exploratory way, how it prompts discovery of new mathematical results? Material mathematical models were produced and used during the second half of the nineteenth century, visualizing mathematical objects, such as curves and surfaces—and these were produced from a variety of materials: paper, cardboard, plaster, strings, wood. However, the question, whether their materiality influenced the status of these models—considered as exploratory, technical, or representational—was hardly touched upon. This article aims to approach this question by investigating two case studies: Beltrami’s paper models vs. Dyck’s plaster ones of the hyperbolic plane; and Chisini’s string models of braids vs. Artin’s and Moishezon’s algebraization of these braids. These two case studies indicate that materiality might have a decisive role in how the model was taken into account mathematically: either as an exploratory or rather as a technical or pedagogical object.

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