In the following every surface is assumed to be connected. I've read that the commutative monoid of homeomorphism classes of closed surfaces is generated by $P$ (projective plane) and $T$ (torus) subject to the only(!) relation $P^3=PT$. Here the product is given by the connected sum. Now what about the commutative monoid of homeomorphism classes of compact surfaces (with boundary)? Does it also have a nice presentation? I think it is generated by the $P[k]$ and the $T[k]$, where $[k]$ means that $k$ holes have been inserted, and $k$ runs through the natural numbers. What relations do we need? And how do you prove that no others are needed?
Another question, which is rather informal: Do you think that it's worth to read the proofs of these classical classifications? I know the importance of the results, but I suspect that the proofs are just technical.