Ulli and Daria – Understanding Life Through Learning Math and Physics

Math and Physics are two of science’s fundamental and most exciting branches. For centuries, scientists have used Math and Physics to answer some of the world’s most fascinating questions and help us understand the universe that we live in. But no matter how important it is in our daily lives, most students now shy away from these subjects and is disinterested in them. For this week’s Outer Travel, Inner Journey, we will talk with Ulli and Daria, two teachers of Math and Physics, as we dig deeper into the cause of students’ fear in these subjects and find ways to bring a positive light to it.

For Ulli and Daria, the low interest and fear of taking up Math and Physics stem from how it is taught in today’s educational system. These subjects are taught by teachers and educators that are not experts on the topics, making it hard to translate concepts into simple explanations. Since Physics and Math are complicated and complex, making them as basic as possible is crucial to allow students to grasp the concepts. It does not also help that the system is forcing teachers to take a shortcut in teaching these subjects with the view that not all are good at them; therefore, students won’t need it. This is a struggle that Daria deals with because she believes that students must understand the whole process to connect with the subject and apply it in the real world.

Both agreed that to capture the interest of their students and increase their appreciation of Math and Physics, teachers like them should engage their students based on their interests and relate them in a way that students can easily understand the concepts. For parents, it is also vital to continue being curious and open to learning themselves. This way, they can be students and models themselves for their children too.

Join us to learn more about being better teachers and students in learning about ourselves and the universe in this week’s episode!

Links mention in the podcast

Pocket Quotes

  • “Physics and Math are some of the most fundamental sciences that we have to understand the world. It explains the universe or tried to explain the universe, and how it works. But there’s a contrast that it has very low interest in school.” – Ulli Helmstetter
  • “It’s the fear, that they always, or so many of them, fail in Math or Physics. And this failure is maybe the biggest reason why also the joy is gone.” – Ulli Helmstetter
  • “The simpler an explanation is required, the more of an expert you need to introduce it.” – Daria
  • “Slowing down and always taking a look at the ability to estimate an answer and to take as many steps as are required in order to see the logical progression of the question as opposed to taking a shortcut.” – Daria
  • “The fun is in the understanding, and not so much in the use of the stuff.” – Ulli Helmstetter
  • “Know who you are, what is your key interest, and come back to what is your key interest in learning. We can inspire ourselves, and we can be inspirational to others. as teachers or as parents who find inspiration for their kids.” – Alexandra Kreis

Art and Science – It’s a Tie – Philipa Daria

Art and science, indeed, can become one. Daria’s journey tells us that. 

This heartwarming conversation with Philipa Daria Filip traces back the strokes of that interesting moment of discovery of her art. It also dances us to the intricate details of how her artistry has been married to her world of science and philosophy of living sustainably. 

Her moment of truth was that long journey from Poland to Paris—almost like an exposure trip to her unlived childhood days captured in countless photographs in an attempt to vividly store its beauty intangible memory—that went straight to a vernissage. But Daria’s art and science started even way back. 

Although Paris, and its beauty and promise of sustainable living, is the cradle of Daria’s art, her motivation to marry art and science transcends beyond her artistry and this city. It is actually about her philosophy. Inspired by David Rocks’ Quiet Leadership, she lives by the lesson that we don’t learn on a linear curve; it’s more parabolic. We have to focus our attention to make the space to make mistakes until we hit the curve. More like in art. 

Coming from the logical corner—from studying and practicing engineering to teaching math and physics, and coming from a family who did the same—Daria found herself grabbing the camera and pouring out all her artistic side into it as her way of expression. But not only that. It is also her way of communicating details and of teaching science to the public eye. She has brought all these things together and calls it art is science and science is art. 

To Daria, we can use common knowledge to understand the foundational principles (in math, science). And by slowing down and paying attention to the details—not doing shortcuts—we get so much more and higher quality understanding. In a way, sustainable learning. 

Beyond Daria’s mind for details, she leaves an important trick to muster: Know when to focus on the detail and when to be a master of the subject to be able to appreciate and teach it. Know when to pull back and look at the big picture and how all pieces fit together. Not being a specialist in anything and trying to work and teach on it is equally dangerous as being a specialist in just one thing. 

And above all, Daria inspires listeners to apply artistry to life: “Do not be afraid to try something new. Let it flow. Do not be afraid to take a chance.” 

Links mention in the podcast  


Podcast Highlights 

  • With art, I’ve never felt so refreshed and rejuvenated. It further bolstered this concept of arts and science and how it impacts life. – Philipa Daria Filip 
  • The symbol of the delta, which means change, appears everywhere in science. We can use the common knowledge to really understand the foundational principles. By slowing down and really paying attention to the details, not doing shortcuts, you get so much more and higher quality understanding. – Philipa Daria Filip 
  • The trick of life is knowing which quote to follow when. When do we need to focus on the detail and be a master of a subject to be able to appreciate and teach it and when to pull back and look at the big picture and how all pieces fit together. Not being a specialist in anything and trying to work and teach on it is equally dangerous as being a specialist in just one thing. – Philipa Daria Filip 
  • Do not think that you have to choose one or the other. Just dabble in your art or artistry and however, it shows itself. See how that makes you go about your day to day life. You can find ways to combine it. – Alexandra Kreis 
  • Do not be afraid to try something new. Let it flow. Do not be afraid to take a chance. – Philipa Daria Filip 

Guest Bio 

Philipa Daria Filip is a teacher at the American School of Paris. Born in Toronto, Canada and to parents who emigrated to Canada from Poland/Ukraine after WWII, Daria had always longed to revisit her roots and explore Europe. She grew up in a family with an inclination to science—her mother always wanted her to be an engineer. She worked for three years in Western Canada and had a lot of experience working in industrial plants and factories. But in 1998, she switched to teaching math and science in high school and since then taught in different schools until she found her way to the American School of Paris. 


COVID, Science and Sleep

Ana Rakovac, a friend, colleague, and student of Alex is a medical doctor herself who worked in paramedics and emergency medicine, in ICU, and a lot of other different fields within. Her professional journey brought her to study, do research and specialize in internal medicine and endocrinology, and chemical pathology. A lot of the turns throughout her career were brought by circumstances but also by her understanding that diseases have to be approached holistically. To Ana, medicine is about the whole picture.

And this podcast is all about that.

Coming from a respectable and deep scientific background herself, Ana opens up with Alexandra an important conversation about complementing and supporting efforts of different sciences or frames in looking at our health. Especially in this era welcomed by a pandemic.

Here, Ana looks back at her first dive into Alexandra’s ‘world’ of yoga and Ayurveda. Again, it was circumstantial: struggling to keep an ‘eat less, move more’ lifestyle amid the lockdowns and limitations brought by Covid.

The pandemic has affected work completely, especially those like Ana. But to her, it was momentous as the medical community is witnessing something unique; something so huge unfolding for the first time. Scientifically, it was exciting but also very scary. Until she ended up contracting it and got an inner view.

And this moment made her realize and appreciate more the habits Ayurveda has brought in and how one science supports the others. What she learned in the language and lens of Ayurveda are very much the same in her practice, say in endocrinology, which is about balance and finding out which are inappropriately normal. Ana’s medicine and Ayurveda are not enemies.

She realized that what Alex and Ayurveda are teaching her are observational lifestyle interventions that were 5000 years old and are aligned with what she teaches to her patients in her diabetes clinic. It’s all about concepts. And the small things, like rest or sleep, that actually matter and completes the picture

To Ana, it’s high time we wake up to the necessity of observing and respecting the interplay between our own rhythms and the rhythms of the planet and keep being healthy for as long as we can. It’s been so much that we keep healthy in order to be pretty, to be productive, or achieve some other goal. But how about learning to keep healthy to be happy?

Links mention in the podcast

Reawaken your body

Podcast Highlights

  • The Ujjayi breathing exercise I learned from Alex was really instrumental at the peak of my disease. Yoga and anatomy taught us that most of the lung is towards our back. So when you’re on your belly, you use more of your lungs and in Ujjayi breathing, you learn to breathe with your diaphragm. – Ana Rakovac
  • Ayurveda is an observational medicine. Same as the medicine that I practice. It is how we interpret what is causing these observations that differs. – Ana Rakovac
  • What we do not get taught in med school is habit formation. There is this overemphasis on knowledge and not enough emphasis on how to bring the knowledge into practice. – Ana Rakovac
  • This whole one-track thinking of productivity and efficiency being above everything disregards the cyclical way that humans are. We need rest. We need to sleep.  – Ana Rakovac
  • We have to stop fighting each other or pointing fingers, but join hands to teach people how to be healthy. – Alexandra Kreis

Ana RakovacGuest Bio

Ana Rakovac is a medical doctor who worked in paramedics and emergency medicine in the field during the Serbia and Croatia conflict, worked in ICU, and a lot of other different fields in medicine. Her professional journey brought her to study, do research and specialize in internal medicine and endocrinology, and chemical pathology. She runs a laboratory for diagnosis and research and a diabetes clinic.