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How Does a Surveyor Use Math?

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Surveyors work with the government, surveying firms and other entities to determine the boundaries of a particular area or space. Most often the area or space is land; however, surveyors may measure air or water bodies. Surveys are often used in real estate sales or disputes, and in determining where a gas, water or electrical line may be placed. Closely related to engineering, surveying requires a foundation in math, computers, physics and mechanical drawing.

Taking Measurements

Surveyors take measurements to specify boundaries of a space. These measurements are often used in official legal documents, and thus must be accurate and precise. Skills needed to complete this surveying task include measuring distances, angles and directions; collecting data; and running computations. Coursework in key branches of mathematics -- basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry -- provide a solid preparation for this job role.

Problem Solving

In many instances, surveyors will use other research and data to aid in completing a survey. This includes drawings and maps, as well as titles, deeds and other legal documents. Consequently, surveyors must be detail-oriented, able to identify mathematical errors and solve complex mathematical problems. Training and classroom work in algebra, geometry and trigonometry are important in the development of this skill.

Mechanical Drafting

Surveyors use drafting skills and equipment to draw property maps, profiles and diagrams. In order to be skilled in this area, you will need accuracy in plotting lines and coordinates -- drawing plans to scale -- as well as documenting map symbols, street names and other pertinent information. Mathematical training in calculus, geometry, trigonometry, differential equations and probability and statistics are all essential to mechanical drawing.

Computers and Data Analysis

Technology is strongly utilized in modern day surveying. A few examples include the software used in mechanical drawing, the geographic information system mapping software as well as the GPS system for collecting survey data. In addition to efficiently using and operating these systems, surveyors must be able to analyze the data and troubleshoot technical issues such as computer bugs. To grasp a clear understanding of computer concepts, a strong background in mathematics is important. Some math classes helpful in technology include algebra, trigonometry, statistics and calculus.


Dee Dee (Ford) Smith has been a writer for more than a decade. Her writing specialties include food, travel, golf and career stories, along with marketing literature and product descriptions. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational psychology from Wilberforce University in Ohio.

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