I've had a few undergraduate students ask me for references for the classical fact (due to Rado) that closed topological surfaces can be triangulated. I know two sources for this, namely Ahlfors's book on Riemann surfaces and Moise's book "Geometric topology in dimensions 2 and 3". Both of these strike me as being a bit much for a bright undergraduate. Question : in the 30+ years since Moise's book, has anyone written a more accessible account?
[Three years later …] All the published proofs of triangulability of surfaces that I am aware of use the Schoenflies theorem, which is not exactly an easy thing to prove. There is however another line of proof which avoids the Schoenflies theorem and instead uses the Kirby torus trick that underlies KirbySiebenmann theory in higher dimensions. There is a 1974 paper by A.J.S.Hamilton that gives much simpler proofs of Moise's theorems on triangulability of 3manifolds using the torus trick, and the same ideas can be applied even more simply for surfaces. Instead of the Schoenflies theorem one needs a few results about surfaces strictly in the PL (or smooth if one prefers) category. Namely, one needs to know that PL structures are unique up to PL homeomorphism in the following four cases: $S^1\times S^1$, $S^1\times{\mathbb R}$, $[0,1]\times{\mathbb R}$, and $D^2$. These can be regarded as special cases of the usual classification theorem for compact PL surfaces, extended to include a few noncompact cases. I haven't seen this proof in the literature, so I've written it up and posted it on the arXiv here, working in the smooth category rather than the PL category. It's not clear how suitable this proof would be for an undergraduate course. Besides the ingredients mentioned above, a little basic covering space theory is also needed. If one were in the fortunate position of already having covered these things, then this proof might be accessible to undergraduates. On the other hand, it could be of some interest to go through a proof of the oftenquotedbutseldomproved Schoenflies theorem. (In this connection I might mention a paper by Larry Siebenmann on the Schoenflies theorem in the Russian Math Surveys in 2005, giving history as well as a proof.) 


Try this book by Jean Gallier and Diana Xu. It is aimed at undergraduates and has a nice account of Thomassen's elementary proof of the triangulation theorem in the last appendix. Or you can refer the students to Thomassen's original paper which is also quite readable. 


If you're okay going the extra step and assuming a smooth structure, the standard argument of Whitehead goes like this: take a smooth embedding of your manifold (of any dimension) into euclidean space. Triangulate Euclidean space, perturb the embedding to make it transverse to the skeleta of the triangulation. Refine the triangulation (barycentric subdivision) to the point where the embedding "looks linear" in each topdimensional simplex. The triangulations of the simplices pullsback to a polyhedral decomposition of the manifold, which you can subdivide to be a triangulation. If you insist on going the extra step to topological manifolds you could smooth the topological structure. I believe much of that argument appears in Thurston's 3dimensional geometry and topology book but I don't have it at home at the moment, and I don't remember. 


There is a forthcoming undergraduate differential geometry book by Christian Baer (at the University of Potsdam, Germany) which is very nice; it gives a careful account of this theorem and a very accessible proof. If the book is not publically available, it should be soon. 


What about the 1968 threepages paper by Doyle and Moran? 


The notes (in French) for Gramain's 196970 course, available at http://www.math.upsud.fr/~biblio/numerisation/docs/G_GRAMAIN55/pdf/G_GRAMAIN55.pdf seem to include a proof using Morse theory, based on a quick glance I made. 

