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Home > Members > Members Webpages > VANDENDRIESSCHE Eric


Researcher (Chargé de recherché, Section 38- Anthropology)
at the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) (Sept., 2016-)


Member of the SPHERE UMR 7219 "Sciences, Philosophy, History" Laboratory, CNRS / Paris Diderot University

Contact me

- Research interests
- Collaborative projects
- Publications
- Some communications


2010 - DOCTORAT, Paris Diderot University (Paris 7)
Ph.D. in "Epistemology and history of sciences" entitled String figures as mathematics?, Obtained with distinction. Supervisor: Karine Chemla, historian of mathematics (CNRS) and Sophie Desrosiers, anthropologist (EHESS). Jury members: Karine Chemla and Sophie De-srosiers, Marc Chemillier, Philippe Descola, Patrick Popescu-Pampu, Ivahn Smadja, Jean-Jacques Szczeciniarz and Dominique Tournès.

2004 - DEA "Epistemology and history of sciences", Paris Diderot University
Diplomes d’études approfondies - Equivalent to a Master. Thesis on "Ethnomathematics" entitled String figures: a mathematical activity in some traditional societies of the Arctic and Oceania.

1992 - AGREGATION in Mathematics
Highest level secondary school teaching qualification, obtained through competitive examination.

1987 - MAITRISE in Mathematics, Paris 7 University
Examination to obtain the fourth-year grade in French University. Equivalent to an M.Sc.

Research interests

My research belongs to the field of ethnomathematics and is guided by the following question: How is an activity recognized as "mathematical" when it is not identified as such by those who practice it? The aim of my work is to study the mathematical rationality that underlies activities involving geometrical and algorithmic practices (such as string figure-making or sand-drawing in Oceania), while attempting to analyze how the practitioners of these activities conceive - or have conceived - them in societies of oral tradition.

This study is based on three main directions of research:

  • I carry out ethnographic research in Oceania (Marquesas Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu) and in South America (Paraguayan Chaco) to collect local corpora related to these activities, while seeking to understand in situ the contexts of production and use of these mathematical practices.
  • I develop mathematical modeling in an attempt to reconstruct the processes through which the actors from different oral tradition societies have explored the making of string figure algorithms and other artifacts.
  • I carry out an epistemological research on the forms of rationality that underlie the creation of the algorithms involved in string figure-making and other geometrical practices.

Collaborative projects



String figures as mathematics?, Ph.D. THESIS, Doctorat in "Epistemology and history of sciences", Paris Diderot University, 2010.

Les jeux de ficelle : Témoins d’une activité mathématique en Arctique et en Océanie, MASTER Thesis, Paris Diderot University (Paris 7), 2004.


Articles In Peer-reviewed Scientific Journals

  • VANDENDRIESSCHE, E. (in Press). Jeux de ficelle. Une nouvelle approche comparative des corpus, Techniques et culture, 62.
  • —, 2014. Cultural and cognitive aspects of string figure-making in the Trobriand Islands, Journal de la société des Océanistes, 138-139 (2014), p. 209-224.
  • —, 2014. W. W. Rouse Ball and the Mathematics of String Figures, Historia Mathematica, 41 (2014), p. 438-462.

Collaborative Peer-reviewed Publications

  • VANDENDRIESSCHE, E. & PETIT, C. (submitted). Des prémices d’une anthropologie des pratiques mathématiques à la constitution d’un nouveau champ disciplinaire: l’ethnomathématique, Revue d’Histoire des sciences humaines.
  • FRANÇOIS, K., MAFRA, J.R.S., FANTINATO, M.C.F. & VANDENDRIESSCHE, E. (accepted). Local Mathematics Education: The Implementation of Local Mathematical Practices into the Mathematics Curriculum. Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal, 32.
  • VANDENDRIESSCHE, E., MAFRA, J.R.S., FANTINATO, M.C.F. & FRANÇOIS, K. (in Press). How Local Are Local People? Beyond Exoticism. Proceedings of the Ninth “Mathematics Education and Society” (MES) Conference, Greece, Volos, April 7–12, 2017.
  • FRANÇOIS, K, MONTEIRO, C., CARVALHO, L. & VANDENDRIESSCHE, E. 2015. Politics in Ethnomathematics: An Epistemological, Historical and Educational Perspective, Proceedings of the eighth “Mathematics, Education and Societies” (MES) Conference, USA, Portland, June 21-26, p. 492-504.

Articles in Scientific Journals

VANDENDRIESSCHE, E. 2016. Variabilité culturelle de la numératie : quelques points d’entrée dans la littérature ethnomathématique, Statistique et Société, 4 (1), p. 51-55.


Kaninikula, mathematicss in the Trobriand Islands, Scientific documentary, 26 min, Produced by CNRS Images, March 2012 (English version 2015).
Online on the website of the CNRS Images


Editor of the issue n°29 of the French Online Journal "Ethnologie et (ethno)mathématiques" (in collaboration with Céline Petit and Alexandre Lambelet), December 2014.

Some communications

International conferences


  • "Lévy-Bruhl’s theory on ‘prelogical mentality’ and its influence on the field of history and philosophy of science" – Lecture given in English, as part of the international “Writing histories of ancient mathematics – Reflecting on past practices and opening the future, 18th – 21st centuries”, Paris, Conference organized by the ERC “Mathematical Sciences in Ancient World” (SAW) project, October 24-28.

  • "Pratiques mathématiques dans un contexte de tradition orale et leurs usages pour une éducation mathématique culturellement située" (Mathematical practices in an oral tradition context and their value for a culturally-related mathematics education) – Plenary Lecture given at the opening of the "Didactics of Mathematics Group from Quebec" Conference, Ottawa, May 30 – June 1.


  • "String figures as mathematics: a study in ethnomathematics" – Association for the Philosophy of Mathematical Practice (APMP) International Conference, Paris, November 4.

  • "Sand drawings from Vanuatu: Algorithmic Practices in Oral Tradition Societies" – Invited speaker, Conference "Computing in Europe" – "History and Philosophy of Computing" Session , Bucarest, June 29 – July 3.

  • "Politics in Ethnomathematics: An Epistemological, Historical and Educational Perspective" – Lecture given in English with Karen François, as part of the international conference "Mathematics, Education and Society", Portland, USA, June 21-26.

  • "Reassembling mathematical practices: A philosophico-anthropological approach" – Lecture given in English with Karen François, as part of the international conference "Culture of Mathematics IV", New Delhi, India, March 22-25.


  • "On some questions raised by ethnomathematics for the history of mathematics in Europe as much as in Asia" – Lecture given in English with Agathe Keller as part of the workshop "Actors’ and observers’ categories in East and West, changing typologies of science in practice and scholarship" organized by the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, December 5.

Seminars and national conferences


  • "Programmer les dessins sur le sable de Vanuatu: nouvelles perspectives d’une recherche ethnomathématique" (programming sand drawings from Vanuatu : novel perspective in ethnomathematics)– Lecture given with Alban Da Silva as part of the "Code source" (Source code), "History of science and Philosophy" laboratory (Archives Poincaré, Nancy Univ.), May 25.

  • "Estimating quantities of yams in the Trobriand Islands" – Lecture given in English as part of the Mathematical work on measurement units Workshop, organized by the ERC “Mathematical Sciences in Ancient World” (SAW) project and the SPHERE “History and Philosophy of Mathematics” Seminar, April 4.


  • "Modéliser les jeux de ficelle : une recherche en ethnomathématique" (Modelling string figure-making : a research in ethnomathematics) – Session "Mathématiques et jeux : histoires croisées" (Mathematics and games : connected history), "History of Mathematics" Henri Poincaré Institute Seminar, Paris, december 18.

  • "Des prémices d’une anthropologie des pratiques mathématiques à la constitution d’un nouveau champ disciplinaire : l’ethnomathématique" (From the premises of an anthropology of mathematical practices to a novel disciplinary field : ethnomathematics) – lecture given with Céline Petit, "Histoire des sciences humaines et sociales" (History of Humanties and Social sciences) Conference, ENS Ulm, Paris, November 6.

  • "Pratiques mathématiques dans un contexte de tradition orale : le cas des jeux de ficelle et des dessins sur le sable de Vanuatu" (Mathematical practices in an oral tradition context: the case of string figure-making and sand drawings), Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO), February 13.


  • "Sand drawings and string figures from Vanuatu: comparative study of mathematical practices" – "Art of Judgement" seminar, Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin, September 29.

  • "Ethnomathématiques des jeux de ficelle trobriandais" (Ethnomathematics of Trobrianders’ string figures) – André Revuz didactic laboratory (LDAR, Univ. Paris 7), February 14.


  • "Paroles et algorithmes dans les jeux de ficelle trobriandais" (Words and algorithms within Trobrianders’ string figures) – Lecture given as part of the Symposium « e-Toile Paci-fique », organized by the Centre de recherche et de documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO), Paris, October 3.

  • "Ethnographie(s) d’une pratique à caractère mathématique : réflexion sur les outils et méthodes d’enquête appliqués à l’activité « jeux de ficelle » dans différentes sociétés de tradition orale (Trobriandais de PNG, Inuit du Canada, Mapuche de Patagonie)? " (Ethnography of a mathematical practice: reflection on methods and conceptual tools for studying string figure-making in three oral tradition societies (Trobriander, PNG, Canadian Inuit, Mapuche from Patagonia) – Lecture given with Céline Petit as part of the worshop "Anthropologie des sciences", organized by the team " Approches ethnographiques en histoire des sciences" of the SPHERE laboratory, June 28.

  • Ethnomathematics seminar (EHESS, Lab. SPHERE) – 3 sessions:

    - "L’ethnomathématique, de sa préhistoire aux travaux fondateurs" (Ethnomathematics, since its prehistory to the seminal works), March 20.
    - "Qu’est-ce qu’une activité à caractère géométrique ? " (How is an activity recognized as geometrical?), March 27.
    - "Des savoirs autochtones pour enseigner les mathématiques" (Indigenous knowledge for teaching mathematics), April 17.

  • "Activités à caractère mathématique dans des sociétés de tradition orale : le cas de jeux de ficelle" (Mathematical activities in an oral tradition context) – Lecture given as part of the "Atelier d’histoire des sciences" of the Pierre et Marie Curie University, April 8.


  • "Les jeux de ficelle : des algorithmes pour mémoriser et exprimer certains savoirs ? Quelques éléments de comparaison sur trois aires culturelles" (String figure-making : memorizing and expressing knowledge through algorithms ? Some comparative date between three cultural areas – Lecture given with Céline Petit et Ana Guevara as part of the workshop Arts de mémoire et pratiques à caractère mathématique (Arts of memory and mathematical practices), organized the research team "Ethnomathematics of string figure-making", laboratory SPHERE, Paris Diderot University /CNRS, December 3.

  • "Ehtnomathématiques des jeux de ficelle" (Ethnomathematics of string figures) – "History and Epistemology" seminar of the Institute of Research in Mathematical Education (IREM), March 31.

  • "Les jeux de ficelle : un art de mémoire ? " (String figures: an art of memory?) – Seminar "Anthropology of Memory" coordinated by Carlo Severi, Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), January 25.


  • "Les opérations élémentaires des algorithmes de jeux de ficelle" (The elementary operations in the string figure algorithms) – Lecture given as part of the "Elementary operations, Fundamental operations" workshop organized as part of the "History and Philosophy of mathematics" seminar, SPHERE, November 14.

Science outreach activities

Editor of the Online CultureMATH Revue, Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris (ENS) and National Ministry of Education, 2008-2013.


« String Games: Indicators of Mathematical Activity », Bulletin of the International String Figure Association, Vol. 15, 2008, p. 52-69.

« Les jeux de ficelle : témoins d’une activité mathématique , CultureMATH - ENS Ulm Paris, 2007

« Les jeux de ficelle », Dossier spécial de « Pour la Science », avril 2005

Lectures and Workshops


  • "String Figures as Mathematics? An Anthropological Approach to String Figure-making in Oral Tradition Societies" (Springer, 2015) – Presentation of my book as part of the session Mesures, motifs, figures. Dialogue entre mathématique et ethnologie (Measures, motives, patterns. Dialogue between mathematics and ethnology), conducted by Dominique Casajus, Rentrée littéraire de la MAE, Paris Ouest Nanterre University, November 18.


  • De l’eau dans l’histoire des sciences (Water in the History of Science) – Program of 6 interdisciplinary workshops and 2 lectures (that I coordinated) for elementary and secondary school pupils, Fête de la science, Paris Diderot University, October 10-13.


  • Histoire des sciences sans frontières (History of Science without Frontiers) – Program of 6 interdisciplinary workshops (that I coordinated) for elementary and secondary school pupils, Fête de la science, Paris Diderot University, October 10-13.

  • "Les jeux de ficelle : faire des maths autrement ? " (String figure-making : doing maths differently)– In collaboration with Ana Guevara and Céline petit, anthropologists. Workshop for primary school pupils as part of the Ateliers de mathématiques sans frontières science awerness program, Fête de la science, Paris Diderot University, October 11.


  • "Histoire des sciences sous toutes ses facettes" – Program of 7 interdisciplinary workshops (that I coordinated) for elementary and secondary school pupils, Fête de la science, Paris Diderot University, October 13.

  • "Les jeux de ficelle, une activité mathématique ? " (String figure-making: a mathematical activity?)– Lecture given at the J-B Corot high-school, Savigny sur Orge (France). Audience: 6 high-school classes, math teachers and inspectors in mathematics, March 18.


  • "Ateliers de mathématiques d’ici et d’ailleurs" (Workshops in mathematics from here and elsewhere) – Program of 4 interdisciplinary workshops (that I coordinated) for elementary and secondary school pupils, Fête de la science, Paris Diderot University, October 13.