Selection will begin later this month for members of a parent-teacher task force to explore "exemplary practices" in elementary school mathematics.

The Palo Alto school board Tuesday night unanimously approved formation of the task force, which will be charged with identifying materials -- including technology -– to challenge children who perform above grade level.

More than 70 percent of Palo Alto elementary students perform at the "advanced" math level on the California Star Test. And in a survey last year, more than 40 percent of Palo Alto elementary school parents said their children are not sufficiently challenged in math.

The task force idea stems from a Jan. 25 school board discussion in which board members noted some campuses have developed "flexible groupings" and other approaches to challenge children, and urged that those ideas be shared with other schools.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly cautioned that any approach suggesting "laning" is not appropriate at the elementary level, but that using "flexible groupings" to challenge students would be acceptable.

The task force will be composed of one parent and one teacher representative from each of Palo Alto's 12 elementary schools, one middle school math teacher and one or two principals.

Parent representatives will be selected by the site council at each school. Those interested are asked to submit letters explaining their reasons and qualifications to the school site council.

Teacher representatives will be chosen by principals at each school, and participating teachers will be compensated for their time.

The math task force will meet monthly starting in April or May, run through March 2012 and ultimately be asked to "make achievable recommendations to the superintendent that will direct the allocation of district funding toward achievement of this mission."

In other business Tuesday, the board unanimously approved the trial of a "longer day" kindergarten at Barron Park School beginning this fall, in which kindergartners will stay at school until 2:40 p.m. The longer day will be available on an optional basis to all Barron Park kindergartners.