Outreach mathematicians are college faculty who are trained in mathematics but who undertake an active role in improving primary and secondary education. This role is examined through a study where an outreach mathematician introduced the concept of complex variables to junior high school students in the United States with the goal of stimulating their interest in mathematics and improving their algebra skills. Comparison of pre- and post-test results showed that ninth-grade students displayed a significant change in algebraic skills while the eighth-grade students made little progress. The outreach mathematician lacked some awareness of the eighth-grade students' foundational background and motivation. This illustrates the importance of working more closely with the participating teacher, who understands better the curriculum and the students' background knowledge, levels of maturity and levels of motivation.