Coordinator: Dr. Elizabeth Brown

Scientific investigations into the natural world use analytical methods to evaluate evidence, build and test models based on that evidence, and develop theories. Mathematical studies of form and pattern can create a language that assists in these investigations. Courses in this area provide students with the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills in science and mathematics at the college level. Students will be introduced to a substantial body of scientific facts, concepts, models, and theories and will also gain experience in using basic mathematics to obtain knowledge about the natural world. The area is cross disciplinary, thereby demonstrating boundaries and connections among mathematics, the sciences and other aspects of culture.


Typically students begin The Natural World during their first year and should complete it by the end of their sophomore year. Individual courses satisfy requirements in a number of major and professional programs. Students are encouraged to select appropriate courses in The Natural World on the basis of their backgrounds, interests and educational objectives.

If you are a senior needing to enroll in a Natural World class to graduate this semester, or if you are in a major that requires ISCI 171, 172, or 173 and need an override for that course, please email Elizabeth Brown (

The Natural World consists of 10 credits distributed across four requirements representing four different aspects of scientific knowledge. Students must take one class that fulfills each of the four requirements. Quantitative Reasoning consists of mathematics and statistics courses, and Physical Principles and Natural Systems consist of science courses. In addition, students are required to have at least one Lab Experience

Please note that some Physical Principles & Natural Systems courses have labs embedded (which fulfill the Lab requirement as well), and some have separate lab corequisites; see notes in parentheses for specific course requirements.


After completing The Natural World, students should be able to meet the following objectives:

  • Describe the methods of inquiry that lead to mathematical truth and scientific knowledge and be able to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
  • Use theories and models as unifying principles that help us understand natural phenomena and make predictions.
  • Recognize the interdependence of applied research, basic research, and technology, and how they affect society.
  • Illustrate the interdependence between developments in science, social and ethical issues.
  • Use graphical, symbolic, and numerical methods to analyze, organize, and interpret natural phenomena.
  • Discriminate between association and causation, and identify the types of evidence used to establish causation.
  • Formulate hypotheses, identify relevant variables, and design experiments to test hypotheses.
  • Evaluate the credibility, use and misuse of scientific and mathematical information in scientific developments and public-policy issues.

Students build mathematical models of systems and learn to understand, interpret and analyze data that is numerical in nature.

JMU uses the ALEKS placement exam to help students determine which Quantitative Reasoning course will best serve their backgrounds. Information about ALEKS and cut scores for courses is here:

COURSE OPTIONS (complete one of the following)

  • ISAT 151: Topics in Applied Calculus for ISAT
  • ISAT 251: Topics in Statistics for ISAT 
  • MATH 103: The Nature of Mathematics
  • MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning
  • MATH 110: Math for Elementary & Middle School Teachers 
  • MATH 205: Introductory Calculus 
  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 229: Introduction to Applied Statistics Using R 
  • MATH 231: Calculus with Functions I
  • MATH 235: Calculus

For this requirement, students study underlying principles of nature. These principles are applied to build models, often quantitative in nature, that explore and explain a variety of natural phenomena.

COURSE OPTIONS (complete one of the following)

  • ASTR 120: The Solar System
  • ASTR 121: Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
  • CHEM 120: Concepts of Chemistry
  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (take with CHEM 131L)
  • ISAT 100: Environmental and Energy Sustainability
  • ISAT 112: Environmental Issues in Science and Technology (includes lab)
  • ISCI 101: Physics, Chemistry and the Human Experience
  • ISCI 172: Physical Science for Teachers (some Education majors only)
  • PHYS 121: The Physical Nature of Light and Sound (includes lab)
  • PHYS 140: College Physics I (take with PHYS 140L)
  • PHYS 215: Energy and the Environment
  • PHYS 240: University Physics I (take with PHYS 240L)

Students study the behavior of earth and life systems. Students will investigate interactions within these systems, between the systems and their environment, and with society.

COURSE OPTIONS (complete one of the following)

  • ANTH 196: Biological Anthropology (can take ANTH 196L simultaneously, but not required)
  • BIO 103: Contemporary Biology
  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (take with BIO 140L)
  • BIO 270: Human Physiology (take with BIO 270L)
  • GEOL 102: Environment: Earth
  • GEOL 110: Physical Geology (take with GEOL 110L)
  • GEOL 115: Earth Systems, Cycles and Human Impact (take with GEOL 115L)
  • GEOL 210: Applied Physical Geology
  • GEOL 211: Introduction to Oceanography
  • ISAT 113: Biotechnical Issues in Science and Technology (take with ISAT 113L)
  • ISCI 171: Earth and Planetary Science for Teachers (some Education majors only)

This requirement emphasizes the observational and experimental nature of science. Through hands-on experiential learning, students will make observations and use them to test predictions and hypotheses.

LAB OPTIONS (complete one of the following if a lab is not already included in your C3PP or C3NS choice)

  • ANTH 196L: Biological Anthropology Lab (take with or after ANTH 196)
  • BIO 140L: Foundations of Biology I Lab (take with BIO 140)
  • BIO 270L: Human Physiology Lab (take with BIO 270)
  • CHEM 131L: General Chemistry Lab (take with CHEM 131)
  • GEOL 110L: Physical Geology Lab (take with GEOL 110
  • GEOL 115L: Earth Systems and Climate Change Lab (take with GEOL 115)
  • ISAT 113L: Biotechnical Issues in Science and Technology Lab (take with ISAT 113)
  • ISCI 104: Scientific Perspectives
  • ISCI 173: Life and Environmental Science of Teachers (some Education majors only)
  • PHYS 140L: General Physics Lab I (take with PHYS 140)
  • PHYS 240L: University Physics Lab I (take with PHYS 240)

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