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Survey Math Book Recommendations
Posted by rjl2015 on March 11, 2021 at 1:43 amAs the subject says I am looking for recommendations for a survey math book and or textbook recommendations. I know surveying uses lots of trig and geometry but donÂƒ??t want to hunt through geometry and trig to find the math that is applicable to survey.
Just some more background so that better recommendations can be made, I am a new field engineer that has worked in survey for a short time as a helper/ jr party chief role. Using automated total stations is great but I want to understand the math and theory behind the calculations so that I am better at my job. I am working in civil structures so hopefully that helps with recommendations.
thanks in advance for any recommendations and help!
ncsudirtman replied 3 years, 4 months ago 15 Members · 26 Replies 
26 Replies

What you most likely need is a general surveying textbook. Other people on this board will be able to recommend some. What sort of math have you studied?
I learned surveying on the job, and applied pretty much all the geometry and trig that I learned in high school. I didn’t use much if any of the math I took in college because I’ve always done plane surveying.
There is no use in being concerned about wasting time when studying math. It isn’t a set of facts that you learn, but a skill. To be able to use it, you have to practice solving problems.
Without practice, you can’t do anything with math. You could watch a lot of YouTube videos about how to ride a bicycle, but you still have to get on one before you learn anything.
The math problems you solve for practice might or might not relate directly to surveying, but that doesn’t matter.

I have this book on a shelf 5 feet away from my desk that I’ve held onto from my school days, and it’s been a great resource. I think it will have all the math operations you need.
https://www.amazon.com/ElementarySurveying14thCharlesGhilani/dp/0133758885

@rplumb314 I actually have a BS in economics and a minor in math so I studied all the way up to advanced cal and engineering cal plus things like stats and linear algebra.
I learned all my surveying on the job as well and really grateful to work with guys that are willing to teach me.
I totally agree, IÂƒ??m the kind of person that can be all over the place so I have learned I need to focus and set goals when it comes to learning so I donÂƒ??t get caught down a rabbit hole learning something that will not immediately help me haha.
thanks for all the advice and feed back!

Posted by: @bstrand
I always recommend that book, and getting the nexttolatest edition, as the changes between editions are usually small, and that saves a LOT of money.
If some of the math in that book seems too hard, then find another source for that particular math topic, but you will have identified what parts of math you need.
. 
Here’s a source of free online math lessons–
https://www.khanacademy.org/math
You will definitely need geometry and plane trigonometry, no matter what kind of surveying you do. And you’ll need enough algebra to be able to read trig formulas at least.
For example, if you know two sides of a triangle and the angle in between, you can use this formula or equation to find the third side–
c^2 = a^2 + b^2 – 2ab cos C
I know that one by heart, but it’s necessary to know some basic algebra in order to know what the equation means when it’s written out in this way, and how to do the calculation.

Can do the same thing with Pythagorean’s and the formula is quite a bit simpler. That with arctan and you can solve like 99% of your surveying problems. ????

I second this recommendation. Current versions of this book run about $200, but older editions can be had for not much more than the cost of shipping at alibris.com, or many other used bookstores, and the sections on basic survey math will be unchanged.

Elementary Surveying, by Wolf, etal; for basic surveying math
Surveying, Theory and Practice, by Davis; for more rigorous survey math
Route Surveying and Design, by Meyer, for roadway surveying math.
I agree with others, DO NOT BUT NEWEST.

The Mathematics of Land Surveying, by T.S. Madson. Can be bought from lssseminars website. It’s the book I used for my surveying math class.

College, Algebra, Trig, and Calculus doesn’t hurt to have under your belt either. ????

@rplumb314 I have used khan academy lots during college haha I need to go back to brush up on geometry and trig

@flga22 luckily I already do so brushing up on survey specific math shouldnÂƒ??t be too consuming, I just need to shake off the rust haha

Very nice!
What’s funny is, being the frugal student that I was, I attempted to rent this book for the class that required it. I waited and waited and waited and the book didn’t show up. A month and a half later I contacted the rental company and reported the book lost. In the meantime a classmate had purchased a .PDF copy of the book and since I owned a laptop at the time he offered to simply let me use his copy. I lived in a triplex in an old part of the town where the school was located and I think one of my neighbors was a little bit of a crackhead who occasionally stole mail. A couple weeks after I reported the book lost it magically appeared in my mailbox without any sort of package or mailing label on it– JUST the book. I contacted the rental company and told them I found the book but they said forget about it, we’ve recorded it lost so go ahead and keep it. And I’ve had it ever since.
I still have part of the .PDF copy of the book that I got from my classmate and I always bring that with me and read it on flights.

@cyrilturner – I totally agree with this recommendation. I used a very early version of this in early 80s myself and have used to teach other young surveyors about applicable math. Even used it for my son to help him understand basic understanding of geometry and trig.

The law of cosines formula is a nice piece of mathematics that is loaded with insight. If you look at it this way: c^2 = a^2 + b^2 – 2ab*cos(C), the bold part is just the Pythagorean theorem. So, when angle C is not a right angle, the last term adjusts the length of side c. If angle C is acute, c is shorter than the hypotenuse would have been, cos(C) is positive, so the side is shortened. If angle C is obtuse, then c is longer than the hypotenuse would have been, cos(C) is negative, and the side is lengthened. And it works if C is a right angle because cos(90) = 0.
I used to do a little circle exercise on the board that really helped students see how closely related all triangles are and how changes could be accounted for with mathematics.
Some of my freehand circles and triangles were so bad that I didn’t object to phones coming out and pictures being snapped. Great comic relief and good camaraderie with and among my students.

I was hoping to get folks a little bit riled up with my oversimplification of the math on this fine Thursday afternoon but nobody really took the bait. ????
As far as freehand circles, I distinctly remember 1 professor I had say he used to be able to swing a damn near perfect circle on the chalkboard in his younger years. He tried one for us and it really was kind of impressive. It looked like he locked his shoulder or elbow a certain way and then swiveled his arm around. The closing was kind of messy but just eyeballing it the radius looked surprisingly consistent. Maybe if you do too many of those you end up needing tommy john surgery.
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