Let $K\subset {\mathbb R}$ be a compact definable set in an o-minimal structure over $\mathbb R$, e.g. a semi-algebraic or a real analytic set. A definable family $\{S_\delta\ | 0<\delta\in{\mathbb R}\}$ of compact subsets of $K$, is called a *monotone family* if $S_\delta\subset S_\eta$ for all sufficiently small $\delta>\eta>0$. The main result in the talk is that when $\dim K=2$ or $\dim K=n=3$ there exists a definable triangulation of $K$ such that for each (open) simplex $\Lambda$ of the triangulation and each small enough $\delta>0$, the intersections $S_\delta\cap\Lambda$ is *equivalent* to one of five (respectively, nine) standard families in the standard simplex (the equivalence relation and a standard family will be formally defined). As a consequence, we prove the two-dimensional case of the topological conjecture on approximation of definable sets by compact families.

This is joint work with Andrei Gabrielov (Purdue).