Kirsi Peltonen receives 2018 mathematics prize


The Finnish Mathematical Society has awarded the prize to Ms Peltonen for her long-term, innovative and fruitful work to combine mathematics and art.

Opening of ‘Sensual Mathematics’ exhibition. Picture: Henri Vogt.

The Finnish Mathematical Society’s 2018 Mathematics award has been given to Kirsi Peltonen, who works as a Senior University Lecturer at Aalto University and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki. Peltonen has been awarded the Finnish Mathematical Society’s 2018 Mathematics Prize for her work to promote mathematics.

A particularly important reason for the award is her long-term, innovative and fruitful work to lower the walls of separation between mathematics and art, for example through courses held together with art and design researchers from Aalto University.

‘As the award has been given for my lifetime’s work for the good of Finnish mathematics, I feel it is also an award which affirms and commissions me for the future’, Peltonen comments.

Bold and interdisciplinary teaching

The course ‘Crystal Flowers in Halls of Mirrors: Mathematics meets Art and Architecture’ was mentioned as an example for the grounds of the award. The course was led by Peltonen and it culminated last year in the six-month-long ‘Sensual Mathematics’ exhibition which was put together by the 38-strong student group and held in the Heureka Science Centre.

The exhibition has previously been held twice in the premises of Aalto University, and the interdisciplinary course included students with a diverse range of skills.

‘This time the students included both first-years and doctoral students. Half of the students were from the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and the rest were from the School of Science and the School of Engineering’, Peltonen explains.

The meeting of art and mathematics led to the creation of eight three-dimensional works, which depicted phenomena such as fractals, origami and musical scales.

Peltonen has also toured around different schools giving presentations on mathematics. In her opinion, combining art and mathematics would benefit both subject areas and would increase diversity and the ongoing interaction between art and science.

‘Mathematical research involves a certain artistic aspect which would be good to bring more systematically into view also at all levels of mathematics teaching. Traditional artisan techniques and modern technology offer plenty of opportunities for perceiving mathematics through the different senses. Through artistic materials we get a new physical interface and feelings of success even for those that have for whatever reason been frustrated with mathematics’, Peltonen concludes.

Further information:

Kirsi Peltonen
Senior University Lecturer
Aalto University
tel. +358 50 574 7006